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China-Tibet Issue


During a recent discussion with reporters in Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama reaffirmed his stance that Tibetans seek greater autonomy within China, emphasizing their desire for self-governance while remaining part of the People’s Republic of China.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The China-Tibet Issue: Historical Overview
  2. Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s Impact on India-China Relations
  3. Recent Developments

The China-Tibet Issue: Historical Overview

Tibet’s Quest for Independence:
  • Tibet is a vast region in Asia, covering about 2.4 million square kilometers, roughly a quarter of China’s territory.
  • It serves as the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people and other ethnic groups.
  • Tibet is renowned for its high elevation, with an average of 4,900 meters, including Mount Everest, Earth’s highest peak.
  • Tibet declared de facto independence under the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, in 1913, a move not recognized by China.
Chinese Occupation and the Seventeen Point Agreement:
  • From 1912 until the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Tibet was not governed by any Chinese authority, and the Dalai Lama’s government administered the region.
  • In 1951, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Tibet, leading to a forced treaty known as the “Seventeen Point Agreement.” This agreement claims to guarantee Tibetan autonomy and religious freedom but permits the establishment of Chinese offices in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.
  • The treaty is widely regarded as invalid by Tibetans and third-party observers, often termed a “cultural genocide.”
1959 Tibetan Uprising:
  • Escalating tensions between Tibet and China reached a climax in 1959 when the Dalai Lama and his supporters sought asylum in India.
Aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising:
  • Since 1959, China has increasingly tightened its control over Tibet, resulting in a lack of freedom of speech, religion, and press.
  • Tibetans have faced forced abortion, sterilization, and an influx of low-income Han Chinese residents, which threatens Tibetan culture.
  • Although China has improved infrastructure in Tibet, such as Lhasa, it has also encouraged a demographic shift by relocating Han Chinese citizens to the region.

Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s Impact on India-China Relations

Historical Neighbors:
  • Tibet historically shared its boundaries with India, and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) stretches for 3,500 kilometers in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
  • The 1914 Simla Convention, which delineated boundaries, was signed by Tibetan representatives alongside Chinese officials and British India.
  • However, China’s full annexation of Tibet in 1950 led to a repudiation of the Simla Convention and the McMahon Line, which separated the two countries.
Recognition of Tibet:
  • In 1954, India signed an agreement recognizing Tibet as a “Tibet region of China,” reflecting the changing dynamics of the region.
  • The presence of the Dalai Lama in India remains a persistent issue in India-China relations, as China views him as a separatist figure.
Tibet’s Geopolitical Significance:
  • The Tibetan plateau holds strategic importance in terms of water resources and geopolitical considerations, further complicating India-China-Tibet relations.

Recent Developments:

  • China has been investing in advanced infrastructure in Tibet, including border defense villages, dams, an all-weather oil pipeline, and internet connectivity projects.
  • China is attempting to control the selection of the next Dalai Lama by asserting that Tibetan Buddhism is an integral part of Chinese culture.
  • India’s policy of not granting citizenship to Tibetans born in India after 1987 has generated discontent among Tibetan youth, contributing to ongoing challenges in the region.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023