Most of the leaders of the 1980s and 1990s including Deng Xiaoping were of the opinion that the Cultural Revolution had been a monumental mistake. Since then Buddhism had been reviving gradually all over China. The older generation of die-hard communists were no more. With ?socialist market economy? and general opening up, the society had entered a more liberal phase. Iconoclasm inherited from the Abrahamic faiths of Europe was wearing off. Uniting of the two halves of the Shakyamuni Buddha statue in the Ramoche and its reinstallation marked the beginning of a new age. For the first time in 50 years prime minister Li Peng, visiting India in 2001, spoke of Hyuen Tsang and Fahien, two Buddhist monk travelers famous for their accounts of medieval India. Li Peng'svisit and statements promised a long term change in China'sattitude towards Buddhism and India. That promise has been belied. At best it was a very transient thaw. With the ascendance of president Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao, China has taken much tougher repressive measures against the Falun Gong Buddhist sect in mainland China and Lama-Buddhism in Tibet. China'sforeign policy has become more hostile towards India and her claim for Arunachal Pradesh more strident. Military incursions and skirmishes along our North Eastern border have become more frequent.
China'sinternal developments determine her foreign policy to a great extent. Her behaviour towards India in the last 50 years can be best understood if we take Communism there to have descended from the Abrahamic faiths of Europe. It displays a sense of insecurity and rivalry vis-?-vis Buddhism. Its institutional structure resembles older Abrahamic faiths. It is Godless religion that has resulted in a prophet-like status for a few leaders such as Marx, Lenin and Mao Zadong. The preserved dead bodies of the last two were entombed and worshipped in the same fashion as Christian and Muslim saints after death. But Communism'slongevity as a faith is brief. As in Eastern Europe, Communism as a totalitarian faith has started to crumble in China. China'sCultural Revolution is a manifestation of Communism'scivilization-destroying property, similar to Christianity'sand also Islam?s. This is what I firmly believe in, although I am aware of other interpretations put forward by western scholars. Those traits of Communism that led to the Cultural Revolution have not disappeared. They had remained subdued for nearly 20 years starting from the early 1980s, and seem to be re-asserting themselves.
The recent disturbances in Tibet have opened a new window of opportunity for Indian policy. India should shift away from the position that Tibet is an integral part of China. This 50-year-old stand is a Nehruvian blunder and has not brought us any benefit. We should remember that in spite of this stand China has made Pakistan nuclear-armed and been following a policy of systematic encirclement by opening naval bases in Myanmar. Now Maoists have become a dominant force in the government of Nepal and they have started leaning towards China. India should make a more nuanced declaration around what is given below,
?Traditionally the Chinese emperor had only suzerainty over Tibet. In recent times the government in Beijing has converted that suzerainty into sovereignty. India supports return to suzerainty, end of sovereignty, and consistent with that, a far greater autonomy for Tibet, as being demanded by the Dalai Lama.?
If the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the center is reluctant to do so, at least the present Opposition in parliament should signal a change of stance. The UPA government seems to think that by appeasing China it can get China to support India'sclaim for a permanent seat in UN Security council. With all the force at my command I like to say that would never happen, no matter how much China is pleased. It is time to give up a fruitless chicken-hearted policy toward China.
(The writer is Professor in Aerospace Engineering Department, I.I.T. Kanpur)