MCLEOD GANJ, India, 25 November 2012
Dear Tibetan people and supporters around the world: Let us all unite under one administration of Tibet, and one democratically-elected political leader. Let us follow one policy, the Middle-Way approach, with one conviction — free Tibet. Let us think, speak and act with one common voice for resolution of the Tibetan issue. Let us move forward to end the serial self-immolation in Tibet — wherever we are settled, whichever citizenship we have, and whatever faith we have.
Let us all call for finding a middle-ground solution that takes care of the core interests of both China’s security and Tibet’s freedom.
It is common knowledge that in the past, Tibetans in the corridors of power did not pay attention to the famous testaments of the Great 13th Dalai Lama, and that failure has landed us in the present wretched situation. If we fail to pay due attention and support to the realistic visions of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama when he is living amidst us, then the future of our coming generations is at stake. Let us learn from past history, and not make the same blunders in the future.
Haven’t folks among us disappointed our most appreciated leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama? In his public speech in Ladakh on 3 August 2012, His Holiness himself pointed out critics like Tibetan Youth Congress, and some individuals who have criticised him for “winding up the Tibetan government-in-exile”. He has cautioned us that unless we ensure Tibetan unity in exile, we might plunge into an abyss of repentance later.
The present repressive policies of China in Tibet, including Tibetan areas Amdo and Kham, that sparked the serial self-immolations cannot win Tibetan hearts, for where there is oppression there will naturally be resistance.
With China’s rising economic and military influence and the trade benefits sought by all the major world economic powers, including the only superpower the US, it cannot be feasible to seek an independent Tibet.
China has linked Tibet to its national road, railway and air network. With that, Indian security interests have been directly threatened, yet India has not raised a single voice of protest against the Chinese expansionist designs despite suffering from devastating border war in 1962.
In such a scenario, how could we expect to mobilise other world powers that are lying across the seas? Any acts of support to the Tibetan cause by the Western powers such as the European Union, the US, and Australia are met with Chinese threats of cutting off trade relations. How could we mobilise these major world economic powers to favour an independent Tibet?
Not by resorting to confrontation and angry protest, but by cooperation and dialogue that appeals to the free world conscience can we possibly mobilise an understanding from all quarters, including hardliner and conservative China.
The world is full of messy spots: Iran nuclear issue, Syrian civil war,conflict between North and South Sudan, South China Sea dispute, perenial Palestine and Israel tension, Korean reunification, war-torn Afghanistan, etc, not to mention mind-boggling natural calamities of massive earthquake, tsunami, superstorm, hurricanes, wildfires, etc. Add to them the precarious global economic crises. Where would the Tibetan issue stand among all these problems?
Diplomacy through dialogue is a key to better human understanding, and it is the only viable and realistic approach to settle the critical Tibetan issue.
Six million Tibetan people in prison-like Tibet will be hurt if we in the free country don’t advocate for them with utmost care and caution. If we do not, our very purpose in the freedom struggle would be futile, whether we are for independence or the middle-way policy.
The majority of Tibetans are for the middle-way solution for a meaningful and genuine autonomy for Tibet within the constitutional framework of China. From a public poll conducted within the exile Tibetan community in 1997, 65 percent of the voters favoured the “Middle-way” approach.
People in Tibet are so deeply devoted to His Holiness that they are calling for His return even when dying in an inferno. This clearly shows that they endorse his “Middle-way” policy. No responsible person or organisation should thus misinterpret Tibetan people’s cry for “freedom” with a call for “independence”.
Let us send a clear message to both our friends and our adversaries. Let’s unite under our undisputed leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has worked tirelessly since the tender age of sixteen to his present seventy-six, for sixty long years, solely for Tibetan freedom and destiny. He symbolises compromise and reconciliation.
The Tibetan problem as it exists today has its roots in the remote past in the late nineteenth century and early- to mid-twentieth century, when the world everywhere was in a tumultuous state with WWI and WWII. The Tibetan government in Lhasa then let the Chinese invaders build a road right from China into the heart of independent Tibet. Once the road construction was completed, China was able to access the high Tibetan plateau at its free will with truckloads of Peoples’ Liberation Army troops and tonnes of arms and ammunition. By that time peaceful revolt against the invading army in the eastern province of Kham and Central Tibet was ineffective against the heavily-armed Chinese soldiers. Since then the unresolved Tibet-China political relation has remained in a messy state of a hide-and-seek sort of blame game to this day.
Remember that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful Tibetan freedom struggle. The international community has openly supported this call and has raised the Tibetan issue on the basis of this policy. Some world leaders have openly asked the Chinese leaders to enter into dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama. Many Chinese scholars, activists and artists have supported the “Middle-way” policy.
A thought-provoking observation of someone prominent in the Tibetan community in India, who is well-informed on global issues, sums up the general sentiment prevalent in Tibetan diaspora in these stirring words: “The main concern should be that of bringing peace and freedom for Tibetans in Tibet who are in constant fear of Chinese authority; not that of how and what the Tibetans in exile in the free world feel or wish. How many Tibetans outside of Tibet will go back to Tibet if and when it becomes free anyway?”
One argument for holding out for “rangzen” (independence), is that just as the Soviet Union disintegrated in the 1990s, so will this eventually happen to Communist China. But the ground realities of the two countries are very different.
Tibetans advocating for independence may argue that the former Soviet Union disintegrated. The fact is that, Soviet Union collapsed due to a bigger game plan. On top of the poor economic situation of the country, western powers exerted collective external pressure which led to the downfall of the former communist block.
We must remember that China today is an emerging economic superpower, with political veto in the United Nations as well. How much could we expect these same western powers that helped bring down Soviet Russia to support an independent Tibet? Even the only real superpower, the US, is desperate for the Chinese market. Can we realistically expect the US to exert pressure on China over Tibetan independence?
We must recognise that unless the Chinese leaders admit that Tibet is an issue, there is not much outsiders can do to influence them anyway, and of course not at all by confrontation. Of course, possibility of change cannot be ruled out in this unpredictable geo-political world, as exemplified by the Arab spring.
To conclude, I feel that unity is the need of the hour. Tibetans are dying in flames calling for the return of His Holiness and restoration of freedom in Tibet. Let us raise our persuasive voice in unison with those 1.3 billion Chinese for freedom, democracy and rule of law, and genuine harmony and peaceful co-existence among the many nationalities in the whole of China. We can eventually hope for a United Nationalties of China like the United States of America and European Union where unity in diversity is a strength for the common good of all people.
The free world knows the reality: That Tibet has been denied justice, and China is simply bullying. Privately,former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal writes in the news magazine THE WEEK, “India has no reason to trust China”. The United States Congress recognise Tibet as “an occupied Country”. Ultimately, the decision-making power is with the executive head of the democratic country.
Stand up for the “Middle-way” policy for the mutual benefit of both Tibet and China. Way back in the 1980s His Holiness predicted, “Tibet’s economic interest will be better under a rising superpower China.” Today China is the second largest economic power.
Help save precious Tibetan lives before it’s too little too late, and help save 1.3 billion Chinese people. That’s what Chinese people aspire to. A messy China could be a harbinger of messy world. We are all sailing in the same boat. Be decisive now.
About the author
Tsering Choekyap is a former teacher and currently pursuing studies in Buddhist philosophy in McLeod Ganj.