Territorial Disputes – Israel/Palestine and China/Tibet

In reponse to my post on China and my contention that it does not have a history of extra territorial acquisition, I was reminded ever so gently of the “Tibet Question”. The writer was quite right in questioning my statement, and I should have taken more care to qualify it.

The question of territorial sovereignty is a highly charged, emotional issue and almost alwasy subject to arguments of self interest of the contesting parties.

First, to the question at hand, anmely that of Tibet, I would refer you to a web site which looks at this thorny matter with fair objectivity, if tha ti spossble. In this article the author attempts to trace both the roots of Buddhism in Tibet and the contested views of Chinese sovereignty. I can say little more than he with the following exception.

China has always been sensitive to its borders on a land mass of that dimension. That vulnerability prompted China to build walls and taek care that its heartland be protected from invaders by securing buffer states. For China I can well understand that both Tibet represents and additional gurantee for ots security. At the ime of the assumption of rule over Tibet, India had only recently emrged from under the shadow of British rule. For another emerging power of similar size, India must have been seen as a prospective competitor and foe, not to mention on the otehr side of teh ideological fence.

For every argument put forward by the Chinese to support their claim to Tibet, there is an opposing point of view and argument.

However, border and territorial disputes are common fare in history. For one, take Israel and Palestine. The Israelis base their claim on prior occupation of all or part of the land and on biblical references. The bible is not a legal doccument, nor is prior occupation necessarily grounds for soverignty. The Palestinians lay equal historical claim to the same land. So, does it belong to Israel or the Palestinians? Whether one likes it or not the territory annexed by Israel in 1947 is not going to be returnd to the Palestininans. The Palestinians will be lucky to retain the West Bank.

It all comes down to power, or raher who hold the balance of power at a given time in hisotry, not some historical or biblical reference, whether centuries old or a few decades. It is thus with respect to both Palestine and Tibet.

In the case of Tibet, even india, which strongly opposed and objected to China’s occupation of Tibet has recently and publicly agreed to take steps to “control” (discorage) anti-Chinese, pro-Tibet Independence groups on Indian territory.

What is more important to India are good relations with China, not supporting a hopeless cause that serves no useful purpose for India.

Alas, if only the United States had the good sense to formulate foreign policies with the same pragmatism.

Categories:Asia, China, Geopolitics, Middle East

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