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March 19, 2008 / Mridul

India Turns A Blind Eye To Tibetans’ Fight For Freedom

Once again the Indian government is finding itself at the crossroads, unable to decide whether to promote democratic rights for oppressed people or to work towards achieving its strategic goals. Tibet, which has long been a contentious issue between India and China, has once again come back to haunt India’s political arena.

During the protests in Myanmar, Indian government kept itself from making any statements that might have jeopardized its present and prospective energy deals with that country. Apart from that it was also apprehensive about the possibility of an increased Chinese influence in the region, since China is also eying Myanmar’s vast natural gas reserves. India was criticized at that time too for not ‘doing its part’ in supporting the monks’ pleas for the return of democracy in that country.

The Communists, which are a part of the ruling coalition, called it China’s internal matter and refused to comment on the current situation. The Indian government calls for talks between Chinese and Tibetans – that is the only official statement given so far. No condemnation, no support for the monks or the Tibetans. It was surprising to see that the BJP-led opposition parties staged a walkout from the Parliament on Monday to protest government’s reluctance to condemn China’s actions in Tibet. Surprising since it won’t get them any votes in the general elections next year, maybe they were looking for a half-day at work!

Indian police has been arresting scores of Tibetans who are protesting the atrocities being committed in the motherland. Tibetans have been accused of holding illegal demonstrations and more than 50 protesters have been arrested in the last few days. On Wednesday, police in Delhi had arrested a group of nearly 36 women activists after they tried to storm the Chinese embassy. During these kind of protests the arrested are usually let off with in hours of their arrests.

While the government still maintains that its Tibet policy hasn’t changed and that the Tibetans refugees are India’s guests, the government has declared that it won’t allow Tibetans to engage into any anti-China political activities since it could damage its “friendly” relations with China.

The public sentiment, though, is very much in favor of the Tibetans. Media has been giving extensive coverage to these protests. Scores of news channels are covering the developments and also holding debates over the issue. When a news channel asked its viewers, via a sms poll, who they thought was responsible for the Tibet situation a very surprising trend emerged – many among the viewers thought that Jawaharlal Nehru’s blind trust in China in the 50s and the 60s was responsible for the present state of Tibet.

Meanwhile the Chinese premier has praised the Indian government for taking a hard stance against the protesting Tibetans. It is shameful that India is being praised by checking a movement for democratic rights. It is disheartening to see that in the land of Gandhi that strategic benefits are being given priority ahead of democratic values.

It seems that India is looking for a deal wherein it would maintain silence on the Tibet issue and in return China would track back from its claim over India’s north-eastern states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Protecting and pursuing policies for national interest is a good thing but looking at the Indian government’s track record it can be said that there were times when it should have supported these movements but it chose not to and that is what will be remembered not the praise it has earned from China.

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