New Delhi: India is now realising that the Tibet issue cannot be just used as diplomatic or political leverage against China, but needs resolution. This will be beneficial for the entire region, according to Penpa Tsering, President-elect of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
The position of ‘Sikyong’ of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was created by the Tibetan Parliament in 2011, and Tsering takes over the position from current President Lobsang Sangay, whose two-year term ends this month.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Tsering said the border stand-off between India and China that began in April 2020 has made New Delhi rethink its approach towards the Tibet issue.
“The Indian government and Indian people have been very, very generous in terms of extending humanitarian support for the Tibetans, but not so much in the political sense. Now, I sense this renewed urgency within the Indian leadership and also in the intelligentsia or the academicians that the policy they have adopted towards Tibet or towards China has not been adequate; there needs to be a proper review… Also because of what happened in Doklam, in Galwan,” Tsering said.
“Of course (border) incursions have been going on for many years, but what has been going on now is more like a war-like situation that is being imposed by the Chinese government on the Indian military. So that, I think, kind of puts a reset button on how India should approach the Tibetan issue,” the 53-year-old leader said.
“So far, the Tibet issue was more for leveraging diplomatic ties or political ties with the Chinese government, but now, I think there is a realisation that the Tibet issue cannot just be used as leverage, but needs to be resolved. That will be beneficial not only for China, but also for Tibetan people and also for the whole geopolitical region,” he added.
According to Tsering, China never made an attempt to resolve the border dispute with India, unlike with Russia and Mongolia, because it has “never treated India as an equal”.
He highlighted that the border between India and China, which is basically the border between India and Tibet, is about 1,600 km long, and largely uninhabited. Hence, he said, Beijing has “nothing to gain in terms of land”.
“This is not good for neighbourly relationships, this is not good for the region, this is not good for the world. So they will have to re-think their strategies. It will take a long time even in India to have a positive view of China; the hurtful sentiments (created by China within India) will take a long time to heal,” Tsering said.
‘Sinification’ of Tibet
Tsering, who has served as general secretary of the Tibetan Freedom Movement, also said China is increasingly carrying out a “cultural genocide” in Tibet where a certain kind of “Sinification” is going on by way of “demographic aggression”.
“We feel that the Chinese government failed to understand the real aspirations of the Tibetan people. The Chinese government believes that every problem can be resolved by development, development and development… So, what China is doing right now inside Tibet is the ‘Sinification’ of Tibet through demographic aggression,” he said.
He stressed that through its policies and programmes, China is trying to diminish the importance of the Tibetan language and its Buddhist monastic institutions by way of greater “surveillance”.
“This is gross interference in the Tibetan way of life, and also amounts to a certain level of cultural genocide. This is something we have to deal with the Chinese government, so that is our first priority and of course, our second priority is to look after the welfare of our people,” Tsering said.
According to Tsering, China is becoming increasingly “belligerent”, because it is “fearful” of the fact that people within China might revolt due to the ongoing pandemic.
Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power
This is the 100th year of the founding of the Communist Party of China, and it has ruled the country for 70 years. Tsering believes that President Xi Jinping is now aiming at a massive consolidation of power.
“In one way, that may be good for China, in the sense that one person controls the whole system. But on the other hand, the person also has to be responsible for many failures. So, you have both good side and bad side to that with the political clout they have, the military power that they have. But the only thing they lack is the moral power, and the only way they can gain moral power and trust of other governments and other people around the world is by being responsible,” he said.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, “there may be social unrest within China and there may be a breakdown of the Communist Party and because of that they want to instil nationalism within the Chinese public”, he claimed.
‘Nobody will accept China’s succession plan for Dalai Lama’
Tsering, who was born in the Bylakuppe Refugee Camp in Karnataka, said nobody in Tibet or in the world will accept or “respect” China’s succession plan for the next Dalai Lama.
Last week, Beijing issued an official white paper in which it said any successor to the present Dalai Lama will have to be first approved by China and that Tibet is an inseparable part of the country.
“They’ve always believed that they have a plan (on succession of the Dalai Lama), even with the Panchen Lama… They know that whatever they do will not be respected… Everyone knows that China is a Communist country, it is an atheist country, it doesn’t believe in religion. But the irony of the whole thing is that they want to be responsible for the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama. While they don’t respect the existing 14th Dalai Lama, they want to come up with the 15th Dalai Lama,” Tsering said.
He added that the main reason why China wants to play a role in the Dalai Lama’s succession is for “political reasons”.
“Everybody knows that, but this is not going to happen. It would be in the best interest of China to resolve the Tibet issue when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is alive, because he will be the only person who can convince Tibetans inside Tibet that the middle-way approach is the best approach,” he said.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)