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  • Q. ‘There has been a shift in India’s Tibet Policy.’ Discuss the statement in the event of increasing tensions between India and China. (250 Words)

    10 Aug, 2021 GS Paper 2 International Relations


    • Introduce by writing about the increasing tensions between India and China.
    • Discuss India’s tibet policy and recent trends and challenges associated with it.
    • Give a way forward.


    Recently, there has been an increased tension in the India-China relations, due to the Chinese transgressions into Indian territory, across the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

    This has led to a rise in the intensity of troop concentration, which has aggravated the current face-off in eastern Ladakh becoming a bigger military confrontation.


    Background of India’s Tibet Policy

    • For centuries, Tibet was India’s actual neighbour, as most of India’s boundaries and the LAC is with the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and not the rest of China.
    • After China’s full accession of Tibet in 1950, the McMahon line divided the two countries.
    • In 1954, India signed an agreement with China, agreeing to recognize Tibet as “Tibet region of China”.
    • In 1959, following the Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama (spiritual leader of Tibetan people) and many of his followers fled to India.
    • The then Indian government gave him and Tibetan refugees shelter, and helped in setting up the Tibetan government in exile.
    • The official Indian policy is that the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader, and the Tibetan community in India, with more than a lakh exiles, is not allowed to undertake any political activity.

    Shift in India’s Tibet Policy

    • The shift in the Tibet policy, earmarks the Indian government actively managing with the Dalai Lama in public forums. For Example,
      • In 2014, Prime Minister of India (PM) had invited the head of the Tibetan government in exile in India, Lobsang Sangay, to his swearing in ceremony.
      • Recently, the Prime Minister of India (PM) wished the Dalai Lama in the first such public acknowledgement since 2013, the first time as PM.
      • India celebrated the Dalai Lama's birthday. Some Chinese nationals protested against the celebration of the birthday of the Dalai Lama in India.

    Challenges Associated with India’s Approach to Tibet Policy

    • Changes in Tibetan Demography: Over the past few decades, China is promoting people from mainland China to migrate into Tibet.
      • China is increasing suppression of the Tibetan populations’ links to the Dalai Lama and pouring in investment, infrastructure projects in the region.
    • Tibetans Against Each Other: As India-China tensions grow and turn violent after the Galwan valley clash, China has begun to raise Tibetan Militia groups.
      • Further, the Indian Army trains the Tibetan Special Frontier Force, which could lead to Tibetans fighting each other in the future.
    • Issue of Tibetan Citizenship: The Indian government doesn’t give citizenship to Tibetans born in India after the cut-off year of 1987.
      • This has created a sense of dissatisfaction amongst the youth of the Tibetan community.
      • Further, in the past few years, the US has also increased its role, by accepting more Tibetan refugees. This will impact India’s role as a sole entity arguing about the future of Tibetian refugee.
    • There’s Chinese dams on the upper riparian areas of the Brahmaputra, and construction of Tibetan villages along the LAC which can prove to be a future flashpoint.
    • Question of Dalai Lama’s Succession: The 86 years old Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual leader, but the political leader of the community worldwide.
      • China has made it clear it intends to announce its own Dalai Lama and try to control the succession.


    India currently has an executive policy (not a law) on Tibetans in India. While the current policy was a significant development for Tibetans' welfare in India, it is devoid of legal backing on core issues of Tibet.

    It is high time now that India should also adopt a more assertive stand on the Tibet issue in dealing with China.

    Further, India should avoid a situation where it has a young and restive Tibetan population that resides in India, but looks outside of India for its leadership and command structure after the Dalai Lama has passed.

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