Assessing President Hu Watch his role in Pakistan and Tibet by Rajinder Puri SignUp
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Analysis Share This Page
Assessing President Hu Watch his role in Pakistan and Tibet
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

During his India visit President Hu Jintao said India and China were 'true friends and partners' committed to a long term friendship. He said both nations had a common interest in global multi-polarity and democratizing international relations. Beyond these laudable sentiments he made no commitment. As a power-player he knows the strength of silence. So how might one appraise his visit?

One must watch if, after the visit, President Hu's actions match his words. There are two areas to watch: Pakistan and Tibet. For meaningful change China must reverse its policy of arming and making defence alliances with India's immediate neighbors ' an arrangement that has led to the encirclement of India by hostile elements encouraged by China. There is no visible reversal of this policy. Instead, China is busy consolidating an economic stranglehold on South Asia.

It has obtained from Pakistan a Free Trade Area (FTA) agreement which Pakistan denied to India. China will also establish a Special Economic Zone in Pakistan's Punjab. This will enable Pakistan to not only export terrorists but also swamp India with smuggled Chinese goods. President Musharraf has finally crossed the line. Goodbye SAARC!

Compare President Hu's open hand in Pakistan with his clenched fist in Tibet. The history of Sino-Tibetan relations is complex. The protagonists of Tibet's independence make a formidable case. Tibet was through the centuries an independent nation. It was never annexed by China. It was annexed by the Manchu Emperor, and became part of his Empire. The Manchus had conquered China like the Mongols before them. They established themselves as the Ching dynasty ruling China. Subsequently they conquered the adjacent territories of the Mongols and the Uighurs. They annexed Tibet and Nepal to make them protectorates. In 1911-12 the Chinese revolted and overthrew the Ching dynasty to win independence. The Chinese were Hans of the so-called Middle Kingdom. A popular slogan in the revolt against the Manchus was: 'Overthrow the aliens!' The Great Wall of China built much earlier by the Hans excluded all territories occupied by the Manchus, the Mongols or the Uighurs. The Manchu territories later were occupied briefly by the Japanese. Those territories are now divided between Russia and China. After the fall of the Manchus the Tibetans reclaimed independence.

According to the Tibetans, China's claim to Tibet would be analogous to India claiming Myanmar as part of India after the British departed, simply because it was also part of the British Empire. The disputed 1912 Simla Agreement, which demarcated the border between British India and Tibet, was signed by representatives of Tibet and Britain. The Chinese representative attended the meeting but did not sign the Agreement. China draws its present legal claim from its 1951 Treaty with Tibet. The 1951 Treaty is invalid under international law. It was enforced while the Chinese army occupied Tibet. International law endorses enforced treaties only if force is used against an unlawful aggressor. It precludes force used against lawful occupants of a territory ' in this case the Tibetans themselves.

China will doubtless have countervailing arguments. Even experts seem unclear sometimes about Tibet's precise legal status. It would be best therefore to rely on the 1959 Report of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva, entitled 'The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law'.

After studying the Tibetan dispute, the Commission's Report cautioned at the outset: 'Relations between Asian states were not governed by Western political ideas and cannot be described in Western political terms. Failure to grasp this important point can lead to fundamental misconceptions.'

The British, seeking to explore Tibet and delineate its boundary, were perpetually confused about who ruled Tibet. The 1876 Treaty signed between Britain and China allowing Britain to explore Tibet remained unimplemented, because Tibet refused to comply. In 1888 Tibetan encroachment into Sikkim could not be vacated despite China's warning Tibet. Ultimately, Britain used force to expel the Tibetans. Despite British recognition of Chinese authority in Tibet the Chinese consistently failed to exercise control.

In 1893 the full extent was revealed of Chinese impotence in Tibet. The Anglo-Chinese Convention on trade gave Britain access to Tibet. China failed to obtain Tibetan compliance. The Tibetans insisted that any Convention unsigned by Tibet was inapplicable. Britain thereafter launched military action to extract concessions from Tibet. Fed up, British Viceroy Lord Curzon declared both China and Tibet unfit for diplomatic intercourse. He ordered a military mission which occupied Tibet and forced its government to sign the Treaty of 1904. Because the Dalai Lama had fled, the Treaty was signed by the Tibetan Regent using the Tibetan seal. No Chinese signature appeared anywhere on the Treaty. According to the Treaty, Tibet undertook 'to respect the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1890 and to recognize the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet'. While all this happened there was no protest from China. In fact the Chinese assisted the British military mission led by Younghusband. As reward, Britain subsequently granted to China suzerainty over Tibet, which remained extremely vague and elastic.

The 1959 ICJ Report stated: 'The important point which emerges as an historical fact at this time is the ineffectiveness of the supposed Chinese authority in Tibet.' Not surprisingly, the Jurists affirmed: 'Personal allegiance of the Dalai Lama towards the Manchu Emperor came to an end. Tibet's expulsion of the Chinese in 1912 can fairly be described as one of de facto independence and there are, as explained, strong legal grounds for thinking that any form of legal subservience to China had vanished.'

India has a border with Tibet, not with China. The eight-year 1954 Treaty whereby India recognized Tibet as part of China was never renewed. The repeated Indian assurances about Tibet being part of China damage India itself. They have no relevance to the Tibetan dispute. That dispute exists between China and the Tibetan people.

So, how may China resolve its dispute with Tibet? One possible solution lies in Article 31 of the constitution of the People's Republic of China: 'The state may establish special administrative regions where necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress in the light of the specific conditions.' The Dalai Lama publicly approved 'the search for the future of Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution'. What more can he concede?

Yet China does not relent. Decades ago President Hu as the administrator of Tibet ruthlessly crushed Tibetan dissent and altered it demographically. Since then the world has changed. The world's perception of China has changed. But has President Hu changed? He attempts total victory. Sometimes such attempts invite total defeat.   

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29-Nov-2006
More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri
 
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