Dharamshala: The trust deficit of pandemic and the paranoia of dealing with coronavirus and other internal issues have led the Chinese leadership to divert attention by externalising the problem with the current border incursions happening in India says the President of Central Tibetan administration today in an exclusive interview with Wasbir Hussain, Editor-in-chief of Northeast Live.
As the tensions continue to escalate along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), President Dr Lobsang Sangay led-Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has reaffirmed its support for India in the standoff against China.
Excepts of the interview:
Wasbir Hussain: During the past few weeks we have once again witnessed aggressive behaviour of the Chinese military in Ladakh and Sikkim. Does this surprise you the- military adventurism coming at a time when India is directing its resources to battle the COVIID-19
President Dr Sangay: I would like to say no and yes, no because when Tibet was occupied Mao Zedong and the Chinese leaders have said that Tibet is a palm and Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and Arunachal are five fingers. So once they occupied the palm and now they are coming after the five fingers. So the adventurism and the incursions in Ladakh and Sikkim are nothing surprising for us. In 2017, Doklam standoff happened and now it’s happening in Ladakh. The infrastructure build-up of the Chinese military you know it’s huge in both the areas. This is nothing surprising as we have been saying all these years after the occupation of Tibet ‘what has happened to us could happen to all the neighbouring countries including India’. Now you see what’s happening to India and the borders of India is what we have been saying for the last 60 years. In a way, the whole world focused on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic which originated from Wuhan in China and that’s where the attention should be and all these incursions are absolutely unnecessary and very insensitive at this time of the year but the Chinese government is doing it.
Wasbir Hussain: Many even look at Beijing’s posturing as a panic reaction. After all, more than 120 nations now want a global investigation on the origin of the COVID-19 virus?
President Dr Sangay: That is true. The WHO is normally neutral and some of the officials could be China leaning but China sympathetic officials have also resolved to investigate the origin of the coronavirus which obviously happened in Wuhan, the city of China. Given the global attention and pressure on China and the Chinese leadership seems to be nervous as well so from what I hear in Tibet all the monasteries are shut down, monks and nuns are not allowed to venture out of the districts in case they do they have to seek permission., You can see they are not allowing the Tibetans to even move from district to district and from state to state. That shows the paranoia or insecurity in China. So this is the external pressure of WHO and the trust deficit of pandemic that has generated against China and the internal pressure to the Chinese leadership dealing with coronavirus and other internal issues. They are trying to divert the attention by externalising the problem with this border incursion in India and also in Such China Sea and various other places.
Wasbir Hussain: Are you among those who are prepared to believe that Novel Coronavirus is a man-made virus, produced by the Chinese, possibly at libratory in Wuhan- Do you see it as a bio-weapon that was leaked to the world?
President Dr. Sangay: Now it is difficult to say so let the WHO scientists investigate this issue thoroughly and come out with the objective report. Having said that, there are some indications that whether it is intentionally or not the virus is leaked from the bio lab which was in Wuhan because when some of the state department reports say that when some of the staff and scientists visited the infrastructure, the quality control, and the safety measures are not in a good place so intentionally or not it could have been leaked From the lab. But let the scientists of WHO confirm this and let the whole world know but definitely the coronavirus is originated in Wuhan, the city of China which the Chinese government is trying to deny.
Wasbir Hussain: The Indian military today is not the military of 1962. Our military machine has advanced leaps and bounds. The Chinese are well aware of this and still, they regularly create situations along the LAC that can well lead to a sharp confrontation. What is your view?
President Dr Sangay: I think China has this ambition to become a world leader, unfortunately, if you look at the global transformation when the world leaders come up there has to be flexing of muscles and which leads to war, and then-leader comes up. That’s the story of the first world war, 2nd world war or the British rule and before that Roman emperor and so forth. So Chinese government is flexing its military muscles and India happens to be the largest populated country in Asia which can go toe to toe as far as population is concerned, as far as military capacity is concerned so I think it could be testing its water but definitely since the occupation of Tibet since the border between Tibet and India changed to India-China, all the tensions have come up and it will continue to come till Tibet issue is resolved.
Well, the Chinese government clearly says Tibet is one of the core issues so it’s very important. Xi-Jinping is in the record saying that the security and stability of China are dependent on the security and stability of Tibet. Now for various reasons,
Wasbir Hussain: An activist in Ladakh recently gave out a call to boycott Chinese goods and this has almost turned into a nation-wide movement. How do you look at this, can sanctions like these work at the level of citizens?
President Dr Sangay: Now if you don’t want import from any country the government can raise its tariff like the U.S impose a high tariff on Chinese goods thereby limiting the import from China. This is something a government can do and also issue an import-export license. For people also national security is very important. Incursions should be condemned and people should also rise to the occasion and say I am for India and I support India’s greatness. But if you have Chinese software and apps you contribute towards the Chinese economy. People should also be sensitive. Having said that, people will buy things which are cheaper mainly because that’s all they have as money is concerned, But I have been saying this, celebrities who endorse Chinese products and brands are doing simply for money. At least they can shed a light on boycotting Chinese products.
I know Mr. Sonam Wangchuk from Ladakh called out for the boycott of Chinese goods. The people at the border feel the pain I think. They will be the first victim if there will be aggression and invasion so they are quite nervous. They are speaking frothier heart. The people of India should pay heed to what Mr. Wangchuk has to say. Having said that, whether the goods should be imported and exported mainly depends on the government. If the government imposes a huge tariff that will limit the Chinese goods coming into India. As far as people are concerned yes people should be sensitive. They should know that national security is more important than entertainment and fun. So if there are Chinese apps and Chinese goods that can be sacrificed in the interest of the national cause then do so. But my take has been that people buy things because it’s cheaper and that’s what they can afford but celebrities are simply doing it for money. Once they start endorsing their fans and followers start buying those products. So let’s start with these people.
Wasbir Hussain: Are you convinced that China is embarking on aggressive maneuvers towards India and Hong Kong primarily to divert its own people from the situation at home or to divert people’s attention from the internal pressures triggered by U.S sanctions in so far as trade ad business is concerned.
President Dr Sangay: It is both like I said Tibet is the palm and five fingers are Ladakh, Nepal, Arunachal, and Bhutan so the border incursions will happen, pressure on Nepal will happen. Certain changes are happening in Nepal as we all know mainly because of the Chinese government’s pressure. Nepal is leaning more towards China than leading towards India. All these changes in the name of the Chinese government’s pressure and these happened after the occupation of Tibet. That will continue. At this given time, China is under tremendous pressure from the mishandling of the coronavirus situation, the trade relations with the U.S, and also with Europe. Trust deficit there has happened. Certain business people are also looked at as new colonialists. All these pressure are building within China and then obviously, they want to clamp down on Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other minority groups within China. That shows that there is a bit of paranoia and nervousness within and external pressure. So they have to divert their attention and hence the incursions in the border of India.
Wasbir Hussain: By routinely claiming Indian territories like Arunachal Pradesh and other parts, do you think China actually has been trying to keep New Delhi’s focus on the border, trigger an arms race and make sure India spends more and more money on defence and so on?
President Dr Sangay: That could be the calculation as well and also because of this global trust 130 countries including WHO are coming together to investigate China is no small thing. A lot of alliances are formed and the Chinese government is trying to distract New Delhi’s attention from aligning with global power. So all these are being played out. Having said that, the Chinese government has to be really very careful because this year is the 70th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relationship between India and China which means India left Taiwan and recognised China and thereby fully supported its membership at the UN and the Security Council at the UN. This year should be a year of celebration. China should be thanking India for the diplomatic relationship and all the support it extended.to have China to become a member of the Security Council at the UN. Instead of appreciating India’s gesture 70 years ago, there are incursions at the border of India. Can we imagine that? Also, military experts say that the border incursions in Ladakh the build-up to bring around 7-8k Chinese military personnel.
What happened 6 months ago in October when President Xi-Jinping visited Tamil Nadu and Prime Minister Modi welcomed him and the major summit after the Wuhan summit happened in India while the Chinese military was preparing to have a military build-up incursions in Ladakh. This is the Chinese government we are dealing with so you have to be very very careful. That is what we want to say.
Wasbir Hussain: India these days is ruled by a popularly elected government that claims a majority in Parliament. Prime minister Modi has hosted the Chinese leader Xi-Jinping with generosity. What do we get in return- aggression but the Chinese military on the border? Obviously, many are asking the question of whether the Chinese can be trusted.
President Dr Sangay: That is our experience you know. The Chinese army first came to Tibet they came in the name of peaceful liberation and prosperity for the Tibetans. So we thought this government meant really well. And ultimately we lost our country and our natural resources exploited on a large scale. The environmental destruction is taking place. The plundering of Tibet is taking place which is a fact so this is our experience and that’s why we always say’ what happened to Tibet could happen to you and it is happening at the border of India soon it will start happening inside India also. So you have to be extremely careful. Study Tibet, Tibet issue, and learn lessons from the Tibetan experience. If you want to truly understand China, you have to know Tibet. That is the lesson.
Wasbir Hussain: In what way would you like the US or the world community to respond to vis-a-vis China? After all, China may be the world’s manufacturing hub, but the market obviously is outside China’s borders?
President Dr Sangay: China is the manufacturing hub but they have to sell so the market is mainly Europe and America so if we want to sell we always say buyers are the masters that’s what we have been taught in business. The customers like Europe and the US are already taking actions such as imposing a high tariff on Chinese goods and support for Tibet bill and Tibetan Policy and Support Act. Recently, during the Panchen Lama’s 25 anniversary of the disappearance, came about the US Secretary of the State Department who issued the statement. The ambassador of Religious Freedom Brownback issued a statement also 180 members of parliament in 15 countries mainly in Europe issued various statements supporting Panchen Lama. The global support for Tibet remains strong.
Wasbir Hussain: Can China really ignore the Indian market? If yes, can the Chinese behaviour change in the days ahead?
President Dr. Sangay: They cannot ignore India’s market because the US government is imposing high tariffs limiting the imports from China and some of the European countries are also doing the same. So they need to make and India with 1.3 billion is a very attractive market. You have major say Indian people and the Indian government have a major say in how much of products you want to buy from home so ultimately its business. We are not saying don’t do business with China or don’t have diplomatic relations with China but whenever you do, you should be making a profit but at the moment the trade deficit is against India right? Why 75% against 25%? That has to be balanced. Also, Modi Ji’s call for make in India should be implemented more vigorously and people should participate more fully so that you become more self-reliant