NEW DELHI, India, 5 October 2012
The issue of Tibet should be “on the table” during talks between India and China, Tibetan political leader Lobsang Sangay said here Friday.
“I believe Tibet should be on the table as a foreign issue,” Sangay told the media at the Dalai Lama’s bureau.
A total of 52 Tibetans have immolated themselves in Tibet in the last one and a half years, said Sangay.
“The situation in Tibet is tragic… Under the repressive policies of the Chinese government, there is no freedom of speech,” he said, adding that even shouting slogans could land people in jail.
He said the Tibetan-government-in-exile, based in Dharamshala in India, had appealed to Tibetans not to immolate themselves.
“We support the aspirations of the Tibetan people for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet and freedom of Tibet,” said Sangay.
Explaining why India and China should discuss Tibet, Sangay said the Sutlej and Brahmaputra rivers flowed from Tibet downstream into India.
But with China building 20 dams on each river and even trying to reverse their flow, to make them flow upstream, it would harm the interests of India, he said.
“Due to deforestation and silting in Tibet, it is causing floods downstream. The Tibetan glaciers are melting at an alarming rate,” said Sangay, who in August completed a year as the Tibetan government-in-exile’s top political leader.
“The future of the Tibetan Plateau is vital for India as well.”
He said China had built five major air fields in Tibet and was building another one.
“China has 23 military divisions in Tibet… The railway line from Beijing to Lhasa has extended further and will soon come to Nepal and (towards) Sikkim,” he said.
“We are ready to engage in a dialogue with China anytime, anywhere,” said Sangay.
He said he had met Chinese journalists and scholars in Dharamshala several times for exchange of views.
He thanked India and its people for “hosting and supporting us all these years”.
“I do believe that India should be the model. Asian countries should look at India on how best to address the magic of unity in diversity,” said the Delhi and Harvard educated Sangay.
The Dalai Lama has lived in India since 1959. His government-in-exile is not recognised by any country. Some 140,000 Tibetans live in exile around the world, over 100,000 of them in India.