New Delhi: The Chinese government is going ahead with its expansionist design and military adventurism because it wants to divert the world’s attention from the Covid-19 pandemic which began in Wuhan, according to Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.
In an interview to ThePrint, Sangay, who was officially given the title of ‘Sikyong’ or President in 2012, said China is continuing with its aggressive stance towards India or in Hong Kong due to “internal pressure” in Beijing over the Chinese leadership’s way of dealing with the US in business and economic ties, and “growing scepticism on security matters” from Europe to Australia and Japan.
“Murmurs are going on within China as to how it is handling all this… And with 130 countries coming together to investigate the origin of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China is now looking at diversion as well through this security and military adventurism,” he said, adding that China wants the world to focus on other issues and not on the “trust deficit” it has created.
Sangay said China is doing to its neighbouring countries what it did to his country in the 1950s.
“We have been saying for the last 60 years after the occupation of Tibet that what happened to Tibet could happen to all neighbouring countries, including India, and now it is happening. Since Doklam it has been happening and border incursions have been increasing every year. This is the pattern and expansionist design of the Chinese government,” Sangay said over Skype from the CTA headquarters in Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala.
Referring to the latest month-long border stand-off between India and China in eastern Ladakh, Sangay said it is a reflection of what China is doing in terms of its aggressive policies across the world, be it in Hong Kong or elsewhere.
“When Tibet was free, the border between India and Tibet had no military presence… Now you have thousands and thousands of Indian troops patrolling the border… What happened to Tibet could happen to you and it happening now,” he said.
Sangay added that this was adding to India’s defence budget, and had it not needed to spend so much on managing its border with China, it would have been in a better position to utilise that money towards health, education and the welfare of migrant labourers.
‘Dalai Lama does not have to speak on every incident’
According to Sangay, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has devolved all his political authority, which is now being looked after by the CTA.
“There is a clear-cut separation … His Holiness has been speaking for India and for Tibet and against the Chinese government for the last 60 years… He calls himself ‘Son of India’. I don’t think he has to comment on every matter that comes up,” he said.
Sangay was referring to the recent comments made by former Indian diplomat Phunchok Stobdan on the Dalai Lama that led to a one-day strike in Leh, the capital of Ladakh. Stobdan later apologised for his comments, but insisted the Dalai Lama remains a geopolitical entity.
“Ladakh belongs to India … Who disputes that? I have invitation from many political leaders of Ladakh to visit the place,” Sangay added.
‘China commenting on India’s internal matters’
Sangay said Beijing had been commenting on India’s internal matters on the international stage, pointing to the way Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came down heavily on India on the scrapping of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories at the UN General Assembly last September.
“The Chinese government has been commenting on the internal matters of India at the UNSC and UN forums. They don’t tend to support India’s case. That is important for the Indian people to know, and the Indian government should respond accordingly,” he said.
On the recent steps taken by India to restrict Chinese investments, Sangay added: “The Indian government should do what is necessary to protect India’s interest. Chinese businesses working at the behest of the Chinese government will manipulate or manoeuvre the international economic mechanism to their advantage.”
“It is important to close loopholes so there’ll be fair engagement, fair business and fair competition. That is what Indian government is doing and that is necessary,” he said.
‘Wish India could do a little more’
Sangay, who was born in an exiled Tibetan community in Darjeeling, said while India has extended the most support to the Tibetan cause than any country, it needs “to do a little more”.
“India has done the most for Tibetan cause. The very loving and generous people of India have done the most for Tibetan people. No country has done more for the Tibetan people. His Holiness resides in India, the Tibetan administration is in India, the largest Tibetan population is in India … We wish it could be a little more,” he stressed.
Sangay also welcomed a bill tabled in the US Congress last month seeking to recognise Tibet as an independent country. But, he believes it is a “symbolic gesture”, as it is more important that the US Senate passes the ‘Tibetan Policy and Support Act’ that the CTA will support and advocate.
He also said that successive US governments have realised Tibet’s cause as they have realised China’s nature over the years.
“The trajectory is on an upward scale when it comes to Tibet… Growing suspicion for China and support for Tibet are seeing a similar trend (in the US) which is very much welcome,” he added.