India woke up to the changes in the Chinese policy last year when it noticed that the Chinese had stopped issuing regular visas to residents of J&K and have started issuing plain paper visas. There has been a further jolt to the Government of India in this matter by the reported disinclination of the Chinese to issue a visa to Lt.Gen.R.S.Jaswal, chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, to make an official visit to China as part of the high-level military exchanges agreed to by the two countries. The reasons for which they expressed their disinclination are not clear. Some reports say that it was because the Northern Command is responsible for external security in the J&K area along the Line of Control and the international border and they consider J&K to be a disputed territory. Some other reports attribute the Chinese disinclination to the fact that Lt.Gen.Jaswal was perceived to be a hawk who believed that China posed a military threat to India. There are still other reports claiming that Lt.Gen.Jaswal is actually a Kashmiri native and hence the Chinese objection to him. One does not know whether this is factually correct.
We have to make it clear to Beijing that our continued adherence to our present position on Tibet would depend on its respecting our sensitivities in matters relating to J&K, POK and GB.
Whatever be the reason, the Chinese disinclination to issue a visa to him has to be strongly opposed by the Government of India. New Delhi has done well to suspend military-military exchanges till this issue is settled to the satisfaction of India without allowing it to affect the other aspects of the developing relations with China and come in the way of the on-going border talks. India’s response has been limited to the military-military relationship.
The issue has tactical and strategic aspects. The tactical aspect relates to our response to the non-issue of a visa to Lt.Gen.Jaswal. We have reacted in adequate measure.
The strategic aspect relates to the following:
- How are we going to counter the Chinese attempts to question the legitimacy of our sovereignty over J&K and to re-open the entire issue?
- How are we going to counter the repeated Chinese actions in ignoring our protests and concerns relating to their involvement in the POK and GB?
Our response at the strategic level cannot remain confined to the suspension of military exchanges. It has to go beyond that. We had recognised Tibet as an integral part of China. We have shown good faith in adhering to that position. China has not shown good faith on the issue of J&K being an integral part of India. The time has come for us to re-examine our position in matters relating to Tibet. We have to make it clear to Beijing that our continued adherence to our present position on Tibet would depend on its respecting our sensitivities in matters relating to J&K, POK and GB. If it does not respect our core interests in relation to J &K, POK and GB, it cannot expect us to continue to respect its core interests relating to Tibet.
As a starter in the re-examination of our Tibetan policy, we should make evident the seriousness of our unhappiness with Beijing on this issue by immediately associating His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the project for the revival of the Nalanda University.