The Government of India may not like to admit it officially but imperceptibly and surely an impression is certainly gaining ground in the minds of the Indian public that China is no friend of India.
The March 2008 widespread Tibetan uprisings in Lhasa and areas of Greater Tibet amalgamated by China reinforced the negative impressions about China in the minds of the Indian public and more pointedly the vituperative and abusive slander campaign against His Holiness The Dalai Lama as having devilishly masterminded the revolt. China lost no time in displaying its unhappiness with India for the international focus that followed on HH The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan protests in India besides the predominantly negative analyses by the Indian strategic community that came in the wake of brutal suppression of the revolt in Tibet.
The Indian Ambassador in China was summoned to the Chinese Foreign Ministry at an unearthly hour of 2 a.m. in the morning for lodging a protest, the visit of India's Commerce Minister's visit to China was postponed and Indian diplomats were not invited to join diplomats of other countries being taken for a Lhasa tour by the Chinese Government as a damage control exercise. All this despite the Indian Government offering muted and politically correct responses on the Tibetan revolt in deference to China's sensitivities and thereby inviting domestic criticism of being chicken-hearted in facing China
Regular readers of this Column would recall that I have been periodically attempting to highlight right from 2006 and earlier in my writings elsewhere that China despite the dawning strategic realities has been reluctant in re-shaping its policy attitudes towards India. My earlier Columns on this issue quoted below may be perused to get the full grasp of China's continued antagonistic attitudes towards India:
What rankles China most is that India continues to host HH The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in Exile in India though this is not a new development and has been in existence right from 1959 onwards that is from the time of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and who was the architect of India's misplaced China-friendly policies. Nehru after 1962 when China launched its aggressive War against India and captured thousands of square kilometers of Indian territory came to painfully realize that China had stabbed him in his back. This traumatic shock led to his stroke and his ultimate demise.
Besides the strategic factors pertaining to India's rise that disturb China and which were highlighted in the earlier Columns , Tibet is likely to be a new factor with much more salience that will continue to disturb China in relation to India-China relations.
Sixty years of keeping Tibet under military occupation has not brought about the Chinese desired Tibetan submission to China's rule and acceptance that Tibet is an integral part of China. The March 2008 Tibetan Revolt on a widespread scale including into parts of China with sizeable Tibetan population highlights that the spirit of Tibetan independence glows brightly in the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people both within Tibet and around the world.
Tibet and the issue of Tibetan independence is increasingly receiving greater international focus and the Tibetan movement could gather steam. In such a scenario despite the muted policy stances that the Indian Government adopts on the Tibetan issue in deference to China's sensitivities the international focus is willy-nilly going to get India drawn on the Tibet issue much that it would like to refrain from it.
In the ensuing scenario China is likely to adopt hyper-critical stances against India and subtle tactical and strategic pressures to browbeat India and thereby setting in motion a cycle of reinforcing Indian people's impressions that China is not friendly to India and further that China is holding back the boundary settlement with India to be used as a pressure point against India on the Tibet issue
China and India do not seem to be destined to be friends because even if the Tibet issue were to fade away for some reason, China does not seem to be moving close to recognizing the strategic reality that China is not the only 'Great Power' in Asia and that it has to accord strategic space to India too in Asia in the years to come.