Sunday, January 23, 2011

Look East Policy Exigency Of Bangladesh

The government is at last waking up to the need of salvaging the country's Look East policy. The Foreign Ministry did the right thing when it initiated action to stop anti-Chinese propaganda blitz in the form of a Drik exhibition styled as "Into Exile: Tibet 1949-2009." The government's intelligence agencies are said to be mystified about who could be the hidden hands behind the hirelings springing from nowhere under the name of "Students for a Free Tibet". In small bands, these Dalai Lama apologists appeared flashing anti-China placards in some street corners of Dhaka. It was strange since in Bangladesh there are no known fans of Dalai Lama, and political opinion across the board in this country is committed to friendship with China and one China policy.

Para-tariff and non-tariff barriers has been suffocating trade prospects with India and beyond in the west, and the more accommodating and thriving economies of China, East Asia and Southeast Asia persuaded Bangladesh to adopt a "Look East" policy. India jumped the queue, and with its ample resources and trade bargains covered a lot of grounds by its own Look East policy and its "aspirant world power" credentials. But that does not shrink the trade prospects of Bangladesh with its limited offer of merchandise and manpower in the fast-growing Asian markets. We do have to be careful, though, about the sensitivities of the nations we intend to do business with.

The so-called "Students for a Free Tibet" has cropped up in Dhaka when the Dalai Lama is planning to make a controversial visit to the disputed Arunachal Pradesh (Tawang District) which is de facto under Indian control but de jure claimed by China. India says the Dalai Lama is a revered religious leader, who having fled Lhasa in 1949 along with his followers, were given refuge in India as honoured guests. China accuses the Dalai Lama of carrying on "splittist" political activity, encouraging sabotage in modernised Tibet which has by now become a well-developed region with a flourishing population, whose older members remember their earlier miserable existence as virtual slaves to temple-lords. China also accuses the "Dalai clique" of persistently undermining the Sino-Indian border negotiations that are routinely taking place patiently since the talks began in 2003 seeking a peaceful settlement. The Dalai Lama, who is not recognised by any power as a party to the issue, has been poking his nose by taking a public position in support of the McMahon Line which China does not recoginse, and the de facto position of the China-India border is an agreed Line of Control, not the McMahon Line.

In 1913, against the backdrop of "Tibet independence" incited by British imperialists, UK representative Henry McMahon secretly signed the so-called "Simla Accord" with the local Tibetan government manipulated by "Tibet independence" forces during the "Simla conference" without the knowledge of Chinese representatives. This accord even incorporated a large area of territory in China's Tibet including the Tawang district to British India.

In response, the-then Yuan Shikai administration instructed Chinese representative Chen Yifan on July 3 1914 not to sign the accord and declared, "The Chinese government will acknowledge none of the accords or similar documents signed by the UK and Tibet on this or any other day."

As the UK knew it was in the wrong, it did not publicize the "McMahon Line" until 1938 when China was engaged in the war of resistance against Japan.

Yet the "Dalai chique", China Tibet Online observed in article posted on October 22, continued to spread "vicious speculation over China-India border dispute" through the Indian media.

A report published in the New York Times on September 3 discussed the China-India border dispute, stating that the Dalai Lama's "prime minister" Samdhong Rinpoche noted that they all acknowledged the legitimacy of the "McMahon Line".

Samdhong went so far as to publicly tell the Indian government in an interview with Asian News International (ANI), "Watch what China does, and not what it says... the Chinese side has targeted India for a fairly long period, and even painted Chinese characters on rocks near the border. We do not know what their aim is, but these actions are unacceptable."

On September 15, Samdhong said at a press conference that "Arunachal Pradesh" is an integral part of India, and India is a sovereign state. Those who live in India have full rights to go anywhere in India. So why does China object to the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang?

To this, the Chinese answer is: Tawang district has been part of Tibet since ancient times. As early as the 7th century, Menyu area where the Tawang district is located was already under the jurisdiction of a local government of the Tibetan Empire. In 1681, the 5th Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso ordered the construction of Tawang Monastery, and since then Dawang has been a sacred land of Tibetan Buddhism effectively administrated by Tibetan local governments. The 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso was born in the Tawang district. Starting from the middle of the 19th century, Qing Dynasty high commissioners to Tibet and Tibetan local governments also empowered the Cona government and the Tawang Monastery with the right to formulate laws and deal with major matters.

And it is Taiwan's Central News Agency that reported in a September 13 despatch India is playing the Dalai card, and that "India may intend to exploit the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh and even Tawang to prove that Arunachal Pradesh is part of India." This was after Times of India reported on September 11, the Dalai Lama's secretary Chimme Choekyappa made a high-profile declaration on September 10 that the Dalai Lama would pay a visit to Tawang district in November.

Despite these strong differences, Xinhua in its November 3 despatch quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry Ma Xhaoxu asserting that: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have recently held talks and agreed to push forward bilateral ties in a healthy and stable manner, which "is consensus of the people of the two countries as well as the two leaders."

There is something to be learnt and taken note of by Bangladesh from the example of cool perseverance with which China is peacefully seeking to settle disputes with its neighbours, notwithstanding psy-war provocations, as it develops superpower strength by giant economic strides.