This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Penguin India. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How China Leverages Tibet And Pakistan Against India

More from Penguin India

Frederic Grare is a non-resident senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment’s South Asia Program. His book, “India Turns East” tells the story of India’s long and difficult journey to reclaim its status in the fast-changing Asian environment increasingly shaped by the US-China rivalry and the uncertainties of the US commitment to Asia’s security. Read an excerpt from the book here:


Disputes between India and China over Tibet, deeply intertwined with Chinese insecurities in the autonomous region, are perhaps the most troublesome.

As observed by eminent Indian analyst Raja Mohan, “When Tibet is relatively quiescent, it is possible for India and China to keep their fundamental disagreements on the back burner and move forward with the normalization of bilateral relations. When Tibet is restive, as it has been since 2008, it comes back to cast a big shadow on Sino-Indian relations.”

Beijing sees the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community in exile as a base for “anti-China schemes” and regards New Delhi’s support for the Tibetan leader in exile as interference in China’s internal affairs. Although India has on several occasions recognized China’s sovereignty over Tibet, Beijing believes that New Delhi continues to prop up the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees in order to create instability in Lhasa and fears that India might, as it did in the 1960s, cooperate with a US effort to support a Tibetan rebellion against Chinese rule.

Following the 2008 Tibetan unrest, which prompted serious violence against the Han population in Gansu, Qinhai, and Sichuan provinces, the Chinese government not only placed responsibility on the Dalai Lama and his supporters but also indirectly accused India of fomenting the agitation in Tibet. Beijing’s response was to issue stapled visas for Indian residents from Jammu and Kashmir, indicating that it did not consider them as true Indian citizens and sending a message to New Delhi that it should revise its position on the disputed territories in favour of Pakistan.

Tibet’s contribution to Sino-Indian tensions is unlikely to disappear with the passing of the Dalai Lama. In fact, the issue has risen in prominence since his retirement from political duties in 2011. The Indian government fears that the succession of the Dalai Lama, which might prompt China to put forward its own nominee against the Dalai Lama’s selected successor, might become a source of serious tensions with China. Young Tibetan radicals might alter the Tibetan government-in-exile’s peaceful policies and take a stronger stance against the Chinese occupation in Tibet, and such an evolution would threaten the already fragile equilibrium New Delhi is trying to maintain with Beijing.

The succession of the Dalai Lama—and, as a consequence, the future of Tibet itself—might therefore further complicate India-China relations in the future. China undoubtedly has a military edge over India in the Himalayas. Over the last decade, Beijing has increased its military arsenal in Tibet and considerably developed its military presence. Five fully operational air bases, 46,000 km of roads, helipads, and an extensive rail network give China the ability to rapidly deploy some thirty divisions along the border.20 China has also pursued capacity augmentation on the Golmud-Lhasa rail line, rail links from Lanzhou to Kashi and Lhasa, and a 58,000 km road network. In addition, it has considerably increased its communication network, the level and frequency of its military exercises in Tibet, and its conventional and strategic missile capabilities in the region, compelling India to adopt a defensive position.

The persistence of the border dispute and the occurrence of regular, albeit nonviolent, incidents along the LAC can, therefore, be explained as much by China’s desire to maintain some leverage over India’s Tibet policy as by the intrinsic value of the territory at stake. Despite five successive Border Defence Cooperation Agreements since 1993, violations of the de facto border are commonplace. Agreements with China have essentially been a way of managing the dispute and ensuring that no violation would lead to a confrontation.

Yet the two countries agree neither on the demarcation of the actual boundary nor on the demarcation of the current LAC. In his visit to India in December 2010, Wen Jiabao, then-Chinese premier, dashed any hope of an imminent resolution of the border issue, stating that the settlement of the boundary issue would take a long time. Given that China has not yet succeeded in pacifying Tibet and fears Indian involvement in the area, keeping the border issue open provides Beijing with a strategic advantage: an unsettled border keeps India uncertain about China’s intentions while exposing India’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

But it is also important to note that India does consider China a revisionist power. Indian decision-makers do not believe that China is currently willing to change the status quo in Tibet and seem confident in their ability, in the near-term, to deter any potential aggression in the region thanks to India’s missile development (Agni V) and conventional arms acquisition programs.

But they are also aware that India’s infrastructure development program along the border lags behind China’s and are wary of the growing conventional military disadvantage with China. New Delhi expects Beijing to react politically and militarily should the latter feel threatened by strategic developments in the area, and thus seeks to avoid any situation that might elevate tensions or trigger a confrontation in the meantime.

How China Leverages Pakistan Against India

Problems between India and China extend to areas not immediately linked to the territorial dispute in Tibet. India-China tensions also arise from Chinese support to Pakistan with which India has fought four wars since the partition of British India in 1947. China has used the enmity between the two countries to its advantage. Beijing is Islamabad’s most solid and influential political and military ally by far—and keeping Pakistan strong, independent, and loyal to China is one of Beijing’s methods of keeping India from initiating or collaborating on anti-China schemes in Tibet and elsewhere.

A solid strategic partnership between China and Pakistan is a key element of “China’s India-constraining structure of power.” The alliance between China and Pakistan confronts India with a permanent two-front threat – Pakistan in the west and China in the north and the northeast—that prevents a possible Indian intervention in Tibet.

As a result, Beijing has been a constant source of military backing for Islamabad. It has strengthened Pakistan’s offensive and defensive air and naval capabilities, essentially threatening India with a two-front war in case of conflict with China. China is not the only nation that provides Islamabad with military hardware. But Beijing’s aid to Pakistan’s missile and nuclear programs has deeply altered the balance of power in South Asia to the detriment of India. China was responsible for the transfer of sensitive military technologies, including the design for a nuclear warhead, which allowed Pakistan to successfully build a nuclear deterrent in the 1980s.

China has also given Pakistan missiles of various ranges as part of its effort to balance India and thereby allowing Pakistan to continue its proxy war against India under the nuclear umbrella True, China’s policy toward Pakistan is evolving. Beijing does not trust Islamabad’s ability to contain its terrorism problem and is not willing to let Pakistan get in the way of better relations with India. But Beijing’s policies are selective and reflect changing circumstances rather than any fundamental alteration in China’s objectives.

China does not want Pakistan’s use of proxies against India to spark a conflict which would most likely push New Delhi closer to Washington and Tokyo. Beijing also wants Pakistan to monitor its own border with Afghanistan to limit China’s need to prevent Uighur fighters from moving across its borders but is not ready to pressure Pakistan into limiting the development of its tactical nuclear weapons program. The program constrains India’s ability to retaliate in cases of Pakistani-sponsored terrorist aggression within India and forces India to integrate Pakistan into its strategic calculations.

It also limits India’s hegemony in the subcontinent. While it is uncertain whether China would take up arms on Pakistan’s behalf, Beijing actions have helped produce an Indo-Pakistani deadlock that seems as permanent as it is unstable. If Beijing has created an additional burden for itself in the process—as it needs to constantly restrain Pakistan—it still constrains India’s ability to mobilize its military resources on the Eastern front and thus gives Beijing further leverage over India that it can use when necessary.


Note: This has been excerpted from “India Turns East: International Engagement and US-China Rivalry” by Frederic Grare – with permission from Penguin.

You must be to comment.

More from Penguin India

Similar Posts

By sukanya deogam

By Simran Poptani

By Nachi

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below