The importance of the Tibetan plateau to Asia is threefold: geopolitical, cultural and environment. what China does or does not do in Tibet has geopolitical, cultural and environmental consequences for the rest of Asia.
Geopolitically, Tibet served as an effective buffer between two Asia’s most consequential powers in history: India and China. Thrusting almost three miles in the sky and covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, and surrounded on three sides by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, Tibet kept the peace between the two Asian giants by geographically and physically separating the two. In 1950 that buffer was breached when resurgent communist China invaded and occupied Tibet. The breach of the buffer resulted in India and China coming to blows in 1962.
The ambivalence in relations between India and China is a product of the breach of Asia’s most important buffer and the un-resolved issue of Tibet. With this breach, the Tibetans lost a country and India a cultural cousin. Because of the residue of distrust left over from the 1962 war between India and China, some experts define this important relationship as one of cooperation and competition. If this assessment of relationship between the two Asia giants is accurate, then striking the right balance is critical for India. How cooperation in trade between the two does not blindside India to China’s geopolitical goals in the region and how India’s strategy distrust does not prevent it from reaping benefits of booming trade with China is a challenge for Indian Diplomacy.[Source]
Thubten Samphel is the director of the Tibet Policy Institute, a research centre of the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamsala.