And with a stroke of a pen, Britain sells Tibet to China and bins one of Tibet’s best...

And with a stroke of a pen, Britain sells Tibet to China and bins one of Tibet’s best international law arguments to exist as a state.

[I]n the British view China’s control over Tibet was limited to a condition once known as suzerainty, somewhat similar to administering a protectorate. Britain, alone among major powers, had exchanged official agreements with the Tibetan government before the Chinese takeover in 1951, so it could scarcely have said otherwise unless it was to vitiate those agreements. (New York Times)

Yet on 29 Oct, foreign secretary David Miliband said that:

.. after almost a century of recognizing Tibet as an autonomous entity, Britain had changed its mind. Mr. Miliband said that Britain had decided to recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. He even apologized that Britain had not done so earlier. (Ibid.)

So who cares about a 100 year-old mouldy document?These things are written to be broken, right?

But the decision has wider implications. India’s claim to a part of its northeast territories, for example, is largely based on the same agreements — notes exchanged during the Simla convention of 1914, which set the boundary between India and Tibet — that the British appear to have just discarded. That may seem minor to London, but it was over those same documents that a major war between India and China was fought in 1962, as well as a smaller conflict in 1987.


But why? Apparently Britain wanted China to pump more money into the International Monetary Fund. Removing Tibet’s most influential legal argument may have been the price.

For the fun of it, here is the 1914 agreement between Britain, China, Tibet, and Simla.

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