Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Reading the new US policy on Tibet


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : TIbetan issue and its political recognition

The Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) passed by the US Senate earlier this week, bookends a turbulent year in US-China relations.

Must read:

Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA)

Do you think that India’s support for the Tibetan cause is the root cause of all irritants in India-China relations?

TPSA: A backgrounder

  • The TPSA is an amended version of the Tibet Policy Act of 2002, which came into existence during the Bush Administration.
  • The act once signed into law would make it the official policy of the US Government to oppose any effort by the govt. of the People’s Republic of China to select, educate, and venerate Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The proposed legislation will empower the US Government to impose sanctions on China who might try to interfere in the process of selecting the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

US and China, today

  • US-China relations have become much more difficult over the last two decades, particularly worsening in the Trump Administration.
  • The matters range from the pandemic to trade tariffs and its cross-world coalition-building against Chinese superpower ambitions.
  • Earlier in the year, President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Autonomy Act.

Fuelled by TPSA

  • Adding much fuel to the issue, the TPSA introduces stronger provisions on Tibet, plus teeth in the form of a threat of sanctions, including travel bans on Chinese officials.

The Dalai Lama

  • Among the most significant amendments is that the TSPA makes it US policy to oppose attempts by Beijing to install its own Dalai Lama in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The legislation makes reference to the Chinese government’s ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas’ in 2007.
  • China had earlier insisted that the reincarnation of living Buddhas including the Dalai Lama must comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

Other provisions of TPSA

  • The TPSA has introduced provisions aimed at protecting the environment of the Tibetan plateau, calling for greater international cooperation and greater involvement by Tibetans.
  • Alleging that China is diverting water resources from Tibet, the TPSA also calls for a regional framework on water security, or use existing frameworks… to facilitate cooperative agreements among all riparian nations.
  • While the 2002 Act said the US should establish a “branch office” in Lhasa, the TSPA ups the ante by changing that to a “consulate”.
  • It recognizes the Central Tibetan Administration, whose Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay takes credit for ensuring that the Senate took up the legislation for a vote.

Chinese response to TPSA

  • China had earlier said the TPSA severely breached international law and basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China’s internal affairs, and sent a wrong message to ‘Tibet independence’ forces”.
  • After the passage of the Bill through the Senate, China said it “resolutely opposes” the “adoption of Bills containing such ill contents on China.

India’s present stance on Tibet

  • If India is pleased with this latest US barb to China, it has not said so openly.
  • India has mostly refrained from playing the Tibet card against China, and like the US, has a one-China policy.
  • It was only this year, in the ongoing Ladakh standoff, that it used Special Forces made up almost entirely of Tibetan exiles to occupy strategic heights in Pangong Tso’s south bank.

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