Thursday, August 7, 2008

What does Kashmir have to do with the Dalai Lama?

In a recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof, who specialises in reporting from some of the most dangerous places in the world including Darfur, has presented a new set of proposals to the Chinese Government regarding Tibet, which he says has the sanction of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. While reading it, I couldn't help feeling an odd sense of familiarity with the proposal. To take just a few examples (these are quotes from the article)
  • The Dalai Lama would dial back to some degree on demands for political autonomy for Tibet, while the Chinese government would offer more cultural and religious freedoms - no "one country two systems" like Hong Kong.
  • create a Regional Authority for Tibetan Affairs that would administer key aspects of life in all Tibetan areas, particularly education, culture and religion
  • ...restrict migration into all Tibetan areas, inside and outside the “autonomous region,” through China’s existing system of residence permits. The Chinese authorities would stop issuing resident permits, known as hukou, to non-Tibetans for any Tibetan area, and would grant temporary residence permits, or zhanzhuzheng, only when no Tibetan is available to take a job. This would halt the flood of Han Chinese into Tibetan areas.
  • The Tibetan language would... be used in government offices in all Tibetan areas, alongside Chinese, and there would be a new push (as there was in the 1980s) to increase the proportion of ethnic Tibetans holding government and party positions.
  • The upshot would be a Tibet that remains politically under the control of the Communist Party.... it would be able to preserve its character indefinitely as a distinctly Tibetan and Buddhist region, both inside and outside the formal Tibet Autonomous Region.
And then the penny dropped! Some of these proposals (of course, allowing for the distinct cultural, political and ethnic differences in the two cases) are almost reminiscent of the policies that the Indian Government tries to follow in the Kashmir valley! Complete with issues like autonomy, preserving the demographic character of Kashmir, Article 370 and so on. Not very surprising, considering his Holiness has spent the better part of half a century next to the Kashmir valley. Curiously the West does not seem to think much of similar Indian policies in Kashmir (exacerbated by India's own heavy handed actions in the valley, in trying to solve the Kashmir problem). So one wonders why they feel this is a worthwhile act for the Chinese Government to follow. Moreover, one might argue that years of molly coddling the valley at the expense of Jammu, has not helped in bringing peace to the Kashmir. So why would this work in Tibet? I think, there at least, the answer is simple. To all intents and purposes, there are no external forces aiding and abetting the local 'freedom fighters'. This is not the case in Kashmir where the insurgency is, for the most part funded and fomented from across the border. There is, therefore greater likelihood for the plan to succeed if only the Chinese Government were to show some long term vision in this matter. They are lucky in having as an interlocutor, a person of the distinction, grace and standing as the Dalai Lama, unlike India which has to deal with a bunch of opportunistic thugs in the pay of a neighbouring country, whatever be the genuineness of the Kashmiri demands.

1 comment:

Anant said...

Gosh, I did not know that the Maoists in Nepal were paying insurgents in Kashmir?! Rahul, why the coyness? Why not refer to `neighbouring country' by name? In any case, speaking of opportunistic thugs, you may like the following from Omar Abdullah's now extinct blog.