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India's Cold Shoulder for Tibet

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As hundreds of mourning Tibetans marched on the streets of Dharamshala, the Indian abode of the Tibetan government-in-exile, waiving banners in support of Jamphel Yeshi, a young Tibetan who burned himself to death before the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao in India, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hu Jintao met on the sidelines of the BRICS economic summit in New Delhi, to discuss bilateral cooperation.

The two heads recognized each other's growing economic clout and pledged towards a more transparent communication and continual efforts to remove suspicions from each other's minds.

While India welcomed unprecedented Chinese investments in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, and economic analysts harped on the golden prospects of Sino-Indian bilateral trade, firebrand Tibetan freedom activist and poet, Tenzin Tsundue, posted the following message on his Facebook wall, "Early yesterday afternoon 332 Tibetans have been released from Tihar, Delhi Central jail. I was one among them. Once the Chinese dictator in suit and boot left, Indian police are once again friends with us; we are back to having chai (tea) together after playing the Tom and Jerry game. This time India couldn't be democratic with us when it extended the highest honour to their Chinese chief guests. Its security forces created a blanket cover on all our protest expressions during Hu's 2-day India visit. India's power is our power, but so is ours for India."

Tsundue and over 300 Tibetans were rounded up by the Indian police forces, fearing their protests would enrage the visiting Chinese high-ups. Tsundue is not a stranger for Indian security agencies. Off the record, the cops admire the poet-activist's inspiring speeches, his intellect, tenacity and bravado, but throw a Chinese premier in town, and they run helter-skelter searching for him. Pretty much like NATO hunts for insurgents in Afghanistan.

As a pro-Tibet independence activist, Tsundue is on the regular watchlist of Indian intelligence agencies. Not because he creates any terror, but because he creates major embarrassment for the Indian government.

In 2002, Indian police forces were scampering to get him down a tall scaffolding bang opposite to Chinese premier Zhu Rongji's hotel room in Mumbai, where he stood shouting pro-Tibet slogans and asking China to 'get out' of Tibet. And Tsundue being Tsundue, in 2005 he defied gag orders that came with dire consequences and climbed opposite Premier Wen Jiabao's hotel room in Bangalore, shouting, "You cannot silence us, Wen Jiabao. Free Tibet, now." Needless to say, Tsundue has a cult following among young generation Tibetans.

However, Tsundue's Facebook post reveals the reality on the ground. There's an inside story to tell. Neither Tsundue nor the Tibetan freedom movement that runs proxy from Indian territory, draws the immediate attention of the top Indian political brass. They just don't have it on their priority list.

For most of the year, Tsundue and his cause get drowned in the maddening tsunami of stories that emerge from India. Corruption, kick-backs, political circus, godmen, cricket-mania, porn in the parliament, Bollywood masala and what-have-you. Indian politicians and media have enough on their platter to toss up, than to reflect on a political decision taken in the early '50s, that offered asylum to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and supported his call for independence, all as a part of an anti-Chinese strategy.

Times have changed and with it has the fate of Asia. The Chinese dragon breathes heavily down the neck of the Indian tiger and it has become imperative for both to find a manner of peaceful coexistence. India recognizes the formidable power that China is today, both militarily and economically, and knows it is in her own interest not to annoy the red dragon. Not surprising, then that the two nations who have rarely been on the same side of the table, have recently dissolved differences on numerous international issues, whether climate change, economic growth or sustainable development and formed joint action committees to work together.

As for the Tibetan freedom movement running from India, the passion with which Tsundue and his like have brought the fight and awareness down to the streets of India and even taken it overseas, coupled with the magnetic charisma and humility of the Dalai Lama, has won many admirers and supporters within and outside India.

While Tsundue emerges as the modern-day Che Guevara for Tibetan youth, Dalai Lama springs hope in the hearts of thousands of Tibetan exiles. But, the billion-dollar question is, what stand is India adopting over Tibet in modern times? Has it deviated from its initial promise of support and solidarity to the Tibetan cause by turning a blind eye to the anti-China protest movement on its soils? And in doing so, has it disappointed thousands of Tibetan exiles in India?

In a recent interview with an Australian television channel, Tsundue surprisingly claimed that Tibetans were more united that ever before. It is just a matter of time that the spirit of the people will prevail, said Tsundue. "Hu Jintao, you will fall."

There has never been a successful people's revolution in China or in any Chinese administered territory. With the Indian authorities not in a mood to antagonize China for reasons galore, Tsundue and his ilk have no choice but to hope for a miracle to happen. Both inside Tibet and in India.