(who earlier used to vociferously support Tibetan independence),while answering in the Lok Sabha Starred Question No. 247 on 8 March 1979, on behalf of the government, stated the following:We regard Tibet as a region of China. That was done in 1954 under an agreement between India and China. But we would be happy if the Dalai Lama and Tibetans go back if they think that conditions are suitable for them to return to their country.Later, both Morarji Desai and Charan Singh told me that Vajpayee never cleared this statement [to parliament] with them.In other words, the Janata Party government had also concluded that Tibet was to be regarded as a part of China, and the government’s endeavour was that when conditions become ripe and the Dalai Lama himself feels that it is safe to return to Lhasa, the Indian government will see him off with honour.That is, New Delhi would neither ask the Dalai Lama to leave, nor ask him to stay. The decision will be that of the Dalai Lama.However, while the Indian government’s position was seemingly clear on the Tibet issue, with no room for a second interpretation, there is nevertheless enough indication that in private, its Ministers took stands inconsistent with their own government’s declaration in parliament.For example, Union Minister for Industries George Fernandes as the Janata government’s ‘Minister-in-waiting’ protocol representative for the visiting Soviet PM Alexei Kosygin in March 1979, four days after the foreign minister’s authoritative reiteration on the floor of parliament, argued with the visiting Soviet leader that USSR should declare its support for independent Tibet. His plea was in complete violation of the Janata government’s commitment in parliament, and reflected more on the status of Fernandes as an adherent of the Free Tibet lobby campaign, rather than as a member of the Cabinet.Excerpted below is the declassified transcript, prepared by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the Cabinet Secretariat, of the conversation between Fernandes and Soviet Premier Kosygin en route from Delhi to Anand-Baroda-Bangalore-Delhi, on 11–13 March 1979. On 12 March, while travelling from Anand to Baroda by car, the following exchange took place (interpreter’s notes):(George Fernandes–GF): Will you be prepared to take a stand recognizing independence of Tibet? !e past governments (of India) made a mistake in not doing so.(Alexei Kosygin–K): I did not know that. Mrs Indira Gandhi when she came to Moscow told us that India was opposed to China’s seizure of Tibet, regarded it as illegal, and that is why her government was giving refuge to the Dalai Lama.It is your (Janata) government which supports the Chinese position. I heard it for the first time from your Foreign Minister (Vajpayee) four days ago.GF: I and other like-minded persons always supported Tibet’s right to freedom, and always criticized the Indian government’s failure to do so. The Janata government should undo what the previous governments had done.K: It is question for the Indian government. The Soviet government never suggested even in the fifties that China might conquer Tibet.GF: Don’t you think then a fresh statement is necessary about Tibet’s independence? From a mighty power like the USSR, it would be a great encouragement.K: Tibet is far from the Soviet Union and Soviet Union regards Tibet in India’s exclusive sphere of influence. It is for India to take a stand. Anyway, is there much of Tibet left? They have massacred them and forcibly married them.GF: I draw great inspiration from your statement. Lovers (sic) of Tibet freedom could count on the Soviet government’s support if and when India takes a firm stand.K: You are right.This discussion between Kosygin and Fernandes also shows that when Mrs Gandhi was in power, prior to 1977, she had privately told the Russians one thing (that Tibet is an independent country forcibly occupied by China), and the Indian parliament another thing (that Tibet is a part of China).Several years later, in December 1998, as Defence Minister, Fernandes penned a foreword for the Penguin edition of D.R. Mankekar’s book, The Guilty Men of 1962, in which he gave vent to his openly held commitment to the anti-Chinese, pro-Tibet independence lobby. He called Mankekar’s book, a ‘masterpiece’ and added: 'The well-fostered myth that the danger to India’ssecurity comes from Pakistan has now been exploded, and a new realism of India’s threat perception has begun to take root in its place.’ That new ‘realism’, of course, was to perceive China—and not Pakistan—as a danger to India, when in fact, both these nations are in a compact to threaten India’s integrity.In March 1983, while speaking in the Lok Sabha on the foreign affairs debate, I had pointedly asked the following question: ‘Does the Government of India (GoI) regard Tibet as a part of China or not?’ On 31 March 1983, the then foreign minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, in reply, stated that the Congress government did indeed regard Tibet as a part of China.This declaration, however, did not square with other developments. In March 1983, 70 Congress MPs signed a Memorandum and sent it to PM Indira Gandhi, requesting her to give a Tibetan rebel delegation observer status in the seventh Non-Aligned Summit in New Delhi. Could Congress MPs dareExcerpted with permission from Himalayan Challenge: India, China And The Quest For Peace, authored by Subramanian Swamy, published by Rupa Publications India, price Rs 595.