MCLEOD GANJ, India, 16 May 2013
Tibetan people, especially those educated ones, should reflect on the feasibility of the Middle-Way Policy: How it is realistic, how it is important for both China and Tibet, and why it is essential to show unity and solidarity with a single mission and vision.
Today we can boast of our genuine democratic credentials, to the world and to the totalitarian Chinese regime. We could use them to unite: in support of a single exiled Tibetan government (CTA), led by a single democratically-elected political leader Sikyong who stands for a single policy of Middle Way.
Different times call for different strategies
It’s crystal clear that the Tibetan non-governmental organisation TYC and its regional chapters RTYC, spread across the world, have made immense contributions. Since their inception TYC have provided social services to Tibetans, rescue services during earthquakes in Gujarat state in India, as well as creating awareness about the Tibet issue in the Indian sub-continent and abroad in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia. Their part has been huge throughout the history of the Tibetan freedom struggle.
But TYC’s time was more or less a different time, in terms of circumstances and the geo-political environment. That era was defined mostly by the Cold war, where the USA and NATO led the rest of the Western world, united against the containment of communism of the erstwhile USSR and East European bloc. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and disintegration of the Soviet empire, and subsequent rise of China as a global economic powerhouse, there has been a complete shift of perspective on the geo-strategic paradigm from ideology-based, to one based on economy and trade interests in the East and West.
Against this backdrop of changed global political and economic challenges, Tibetan Youth Congress should reconsider its stand. It should join the mainstream freedom struggle as proposed by the elected political leadership of Tibet-in-exile. By doing so it will implement in letter and in spirit its chartered objective to follow the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
On his Leh visit in 1985, His Holiness said that: “China would be a super power and Tibet would benefit being with China”. At that time who could imagine such a scenario? But now it’s becoming a reality.
A common voice
The time is now for coming together as an undivided unity in vision, words, and loyalty. Otherwise, there’s not much anyone can do to infuse any fresh ideas on the public platform of a meeting of RTYCs. A policy of appeasement among the members within the organisation and outside it, is detrimental to a common Tibetan cause now and in the long term.
Why can’t we unite and speak in a single common voice under our single majority-elected leader Sikyong and the government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Let’s not misinterpret “democracy” to suit the narrow interests of one NGO, or be carried away by rhetoric. Free speech shouldn’t be misused to further the private agenda of any individual person or NGO. Time is running out. There is no time for mere rhetoric.
Tibetans’ place in India could change
The Middle-Way Policy has produced many outstanding results. Tibetan people, children, monks and nuns in thousands have been able to visit India, enrolled in school and monasteries, etc, as a direct by-product of the Middle-Way Policy. But since 2008 the number of fresh arrivals from Tibet has dropped alarmingly. There are schools, but now there aren’t enough children. There are many monasteries, but new monks are hardly there to enter into these centre of Buddhist studies and learning. The ground situation is becoming more precarious by days, with the strict border patrolling by Chinese forces in collusion with Nepal, which has turned into a Chinese puppet following Chinese dictates, both in letter and spirit.
By grace of the charismatic leadership of His Holiness, Tibetan people in India have fairly prospered and been able to preserve Tibetan identity for 53 years. But the future is uncertain as things are changing at a fast pace. Tibetan people have not an inch of land that we can claim is legally ours in India. We are at the mercy of our host country. The Indian political landscape is volatile and who knows what might present itself in the days to come. Who knows if a weak minority coalition Indian government at the Centre tomorrow might be subjected like Nepal to bullying tactics by China?
We have to think very hard of future events before we are confronted by shocking hapless events such as in Nepal. Today Tibetans are enjoying almost unrestricted basic human rights and freedom in exile in India, except for the right to vote. Can we be certain of freedom in exile in the days and years to come in a political and economic scenario where the friendship of India and China repeats the “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai” era?! Today big Indian corporates like Mahindra, TCS, Wipro, and Reliance have opened business offices in China. Five hundred thousand Indians visit China annually and one hundred thousand Chinese tourists are visiting India in return. We should study and reflect on all aspects of these bilateral interactions.
The hazards of inflexibility; the benefit of change
We lost our country and independence due to abject ignorance of regional and world affairs. That was sixty years ago! Are we to stick to the old inflexible mentality even in the fast-changing twenty-first century?
It’s clear that TYC as an NGO has existed as an organisation in continuity — but the individual human beings have all but joined the mainstream freedom struggle under the banner of Middle Way. If TYC as an organisation willingly opts for Middle Way at this time, the public at large will welcome its unilateral action, appreciate and acclaim it. TYC will continue to earn public support for its activities. It will continue with the public trust it has earned during its long 43 years of existence without loss of face. Otherwise, it will continue to be simply at odds with the elected Tibetan leadership and the government he heads. And that, in plain language, means that TYC is against democratic government, elected by the people and for the people.
Members of TYC might argue we aren’t against the government and due process of democracy. That’s empty talk for the sake of argument; it lacks substance. It will only please the enemy, and displease friends and compatriots.
Use our individual pragmatism in service of our country
When it comes to individuals we Tibetans are really pragmatic — as witness, a few thousands of us are in the West. I was General Secretary of RTYC Leh in the early 90s, when we elected the current Sikyong and the curent Ari Dhonchoe Kasur Lobsang Nyandak as TYC Centrex board members. Likewise most of the past Presidents and General Secretaries and other office members of TYC have since joined Tibetan government service.
Why can’t we be likewise pragmatic with the will of the leader and the public? Why can’t we follow and support our political leader and our undisputed spiritual leader, in the true spirit of democracy and unity? We can simply apply our simple logic as individual units.
Tibetans in Tibet are in hellish and desperate conditions. Travelling within Tibet is severely restricted. Communication between Tibetans by phone, cellphone, and Internet is being continually monitored both within Tibet and outside. We in the free society can raise the voice of “Rangzen” or “Independence”. We can debate or argue and shout at each other. But inside Tibet the basic human rights and freedom of free speech and assembly are non-existent.
We have to reflect in a cool and non-sentimental way about these things. Every Tibetan dreams for Rangzen. His Holiness has not surrendered to the Chinese dictate that “Tibet is a part of China”. Rangzen is our birthright and historical legacy.
The realities of political support in the modern economy-based world
Tibet can not achieve its independence unilaterally in this interdependent world without the involvement of outside powers. Which country on Earth today is prepared to support Tibetan independence? Which democratically-elected leader of a free country is ready to support Tibetan independence openly, while they are in effective power and authority? None.
Today every country, from America to Australia, follows a diplomacy of trade and economic interest with China. If any leader visits China, he or she can’t talk tough on China. The Tibet issue is rarely raised publicly at summit meetings. It is only mentioned over tea break. Leaders then come out of the “summit meeting” with Chinese leaders and take great pains to break the news to the media that they did “raise the issue of Tibet” with Chinese leaders, “in private” to keep “Chinese sensitivity” in focus! Chinese leaders have completely hijacked the Tibet issue to their whimsical position. No country dare take a unilateral tough posture against China for fear of losing its economic and trade interest to another country! China exploits the economic weaknesses of other major powers, and plays politics of money, power and influence to its full advantage. Where does our issue stand in this international reality?
The moment of change has come
Dear members of TYC and RTYC, let’s make the hands of our elected government of the people in Dharamshala strong by joining in a single chorus that advocates the Middle-Way Policy. Let us keep an undiminished image of TYC! Otherwise, history will curse us for the missed chance.
My plea for change for mainstream advocacy is not out of blind faith in the leaders, but on thorough reflection and analysis of past, present and future. I am not a student of political science, nor do I know about economic and political theory. I was an average student of science in CST Mussoorie and graduated from Punjab University Chandigarh. I base my writing on the Tibet issue on common-sense understanding of current developments.
In recent months I have had a heated debate of sorts on Facebook with the proponents of Rangzen. I am not writing here for any kind of debate or argument. Nor do I write for any scholarship.
What is at stake is how best to ensure the survival of the Tibetan identity, in Tibet and outside.
About the author
Tsering Choekyap is a former teacher, currently pursuing studies in Buddhist philosophy in McLeod Ganj, India.