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Why India Maintaining a Low Profile in Tibetans' Hour of Tragedy?

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, on April 14,2010, killing 1,339 persons—-the majority of them Tibetans.Another 332 persons have been reported missing.

2. The epicenter was about 50 km west of the Jiegu Township, the government seat of the Yushu Prefecture, and about 800 km from Xining, the provincial capital. The prefecture has a total area of 267,000 square kilometers and, according to the Chinese media, a population of about 252,700 people, 97 per cent of whom are ethnic Tibetans.

3.Yushu is located at about 4,000 meters above the sea level. The high altitude, thin air, freezing temperatures and electricity shortages have hampered the rescue operations. Braving these difficulties, the Chinese authorities led from the front by President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have mobilised massive rescue and relief work. On hearing about the quake, Prime Minister Wen rushed to the affected areas to supervise the rescue and relief operations mounted by the local authorities, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Chinese Red Cross. President Hu cut short his travel in Latin America and rushed to Yushu to join Wen in supervising the rescue and relief operations.

4. The fact that the Qinghai-Tibet Railway line, which is about 360 kms away from the epi centre, has remained undamaged by the quake has helped the Chinese authorities in rushing relief material and personnel to the affected areas.

5. The rapidity and efficiency with which the Chinese authorities have mobilised the relief operations have been highlighted by the Western media, which look upon it as an indicator of the competence and efficiency of China’s disaster relief machinery. They have also seen in the impressive relief operations a Chinese keenness to express their solidarity with the Tibetans at their hour of tragedy and wean them away from their feelings of alienation towards the Hans. In their reports from the quake-hit areas, Chinese media have been projecting those who are engaged in the rescue and relief operations as the Tibetans’ ” Han uncles” and as the “Han uncles” of the PLA.

6. Large sections of the Han population in the rest of China and China’s netizen community (about 380 million) have also rallied to the support of the Tibetans affected by the quake by making donations and appealing for donations from others.” Tonight we are all Tibetans,” said a message appealing for donations.

7. Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama has expressed his appreciation of the way the rescue and relief operations have been organised in this area in which His Holiness himself and the previous Panchen Lama were born. His Holiness has also noted with appreciation the role played by Prime Minister Wen in supervising the operations. His Holiness has said in his message: “I also applaud the Chinese authorities for visiting the affected areas, especially Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has not only personally offered comfort to the affected communities, but has also overseen the relief work. I am very appreciative too that the media have been free to report on the tragedy and its aftermath.”

8. The Chinese authorities have welcomed assistance from the international community to supplement their efforts. Messages of sympathy and solidarity with the affected people have been pouring into China. The Government-owned Xinhua news agency has been publishing details of these messages and of the foreign help received. A careful monitoring of these details surprisingly show that India and our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh do not figure in this list. Even the names of Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives and their leaders figure.

9. One is certain India too must have expressed its solidarity and contributed its assistance. If so, why this is being treated in such a low-profile manner? Why are India and our Prime Minister not in the forefront of those in the international community rushing to the assistance of the affected Tibetans? What is preventing or discouraging us from doing so?

( The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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