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‘Tibet is occupied territory’, international conflict resolution expert calls for India to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict

"Other countries look towards India for guidance on their Tibet policy. What India does have a significant effect on the world’s Tibet policies," said Dr. Michael Van Walt Van Praag

A book discussion event was organised through video conferencing on 10th February, to discuss the book ’Tibet Brief 20/20’ authored by eminent author Dr. Michael Van Walt Van Praag. Dr. Michael Van Walt is an international lawyer, a mediator and advisor in intrastate peace processes, and professor of international law and international relations.

Several distinguished persons from India and abroad participated in the book discussion, including Former RAW chief Mr. C.D. Sahay, Tibetan politician in exile and activist Gyari Dolma, former Ambassador Jyoti Pande, former diplomat Anil Trigunayat, Professor at Delhi University Dr. Abanti Bhattacharya, Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue, former Special Secretary with Government of India Krishan Verma, and Editor of The Sunday Guardian Joyeeta Basu. The event was moderated by Ms. Samiksha Roy, Research Associate at Usanas Foundation.

Talking about his book, Dr. Michael Van Walt said that contrary to what Beijing claims and what many people believe, Tibet was never part of the China. There are no legal bases on the occupation by PRC and it is solely on ‘self-serving basis’, he said. The author ascertained that Tibet is occupied territory and China doesn’t have sovereignty over it.

Dr. Walt discussed India’s role in the matter, and placed three major policy recommendations for India on its Tibet policy. He said, Firstly, it is important for India to understand that not only Tibet but the entire Himalayan region is of utmost importance for Indian geopolitical interests and India should start working to secure its interests. The Indian Government has an obligation under international law to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict. Delhi should send a message that the conflict has not been resolved and the world needs to pay attention to it, he recommended.

Secondly, India needs to actively counter the Chinese historical narrative, which is an integral part of China’s strategy on Tibet which is misleading the world. Not contesting this has made it significantly harder to challenge other narratives such as the one on the South China Sea. It would be of critical importance for India to bust the narrative and try to project the real narrative on Tibet.

(cover of the book, Source- Amazon)

Thirdly, a major issue that leads to concerns is the non-recognition of the territory taken by the force by China. Late last year, the US Department of State referred to Tibet as an ‘occupied territory’, which was a significant move. India and the whole world should not succumb to China’s pressure. This would strengthen India’s position and help to resolve the conflict on the border.”

He further argued, “Let me make this clear – India has a special role to play when it comes to the Tibet issue. Other countries look towards India for guidance on their Tibet policy. What India does have a significant effect on the world’s Tibet policies.”

He said that only way to stop the bullying is by ending the compliance with the bully’s demands. “This has started and we can see that the world increasingly countering the Chinese aggression. The need now is to bring similar powers together in an alliance to counter China,” he added.

Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue called China their enemy, saying that they are destroying Tibet. He said that they are not giving up and will recreate a freedom movement in Tibet. Saying that he was born in Tibet and educated in India, Tenzin added he feels pain when India does not speak up for Tibet. “I want India to protect its borders from China,” he said. He also stated that one of the problems in fulfilling the commitment to the Tibetan independence movement is the ignorance amongst Indians on the Tibet issue. A lot of people in India have been believing in the slogan of ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’. No Indian textbooks talk about Tibet, he said.

Tenzin Tsundue also informed that he will start a path yatra from Dharamshala to Delhi on 12 February to make people aware of the Tibet issue.

Ambassdor Anil Trigunayat said that China has never respected the ‘One India’ policy, and therefore India should not be reciprocating the same.

Balochistan liberation activist Bilal Baloch also joined the event and argued that this is the time when India must change its policy of ‘non-interference’ towards the other countries. He said – “Dragon is a dragon; it will definitely bite you. He added that China is interfering in the internal issues of India, and even Pakistan is spreading religious extremism in India. Therefore, India also should revise its policies on Tibet and Balochistan.

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