September 18, 2020
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Cost of victory
Liberating Tibet: Getting into direct battle

Thoughts of liberating Tibet, given the widespread unrest not confined to Buddhist monks in the vast landmass currently under the control of the ethnic Han Chinese as illustrated by the series of self-immolations (now nearly a hundred), must come from Tibetans themselves.

Only then can the degree of motivation be gauged and supported from the outside. Hitherto, when Tibetans talk of “freedom”, the concept is circumscribed by the Dalai Lama’s enunciated policy of “the Middle-Way Approach”.

The Middle-Way Approach is proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet and to bring about stability and co-existence between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples based on equality and mutual co-operation.

According to Tibetan sources, the meaning “Middle-Way Approach” is unequivocal in that the Tibetan people do not accept the present status of Tibet under the People’s Republic of China.

At the same time, they do not seek independence for Tibet (emphasis added), which is a historical fact.

Middle path

A middle path between the two lies the policy and means to achieve a genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People’s Republic of China.

This is called the Middle-Way Approach, a non-partisan and moderate position that safeguards the vital interests of all concerned parties - for Tibetans: the protection and preservation of their culture, religion and national identity; for the Chinese - the security and territorial integrity of the motherland; and for neighbors and other third parties: peaceful borders and international relations.

As enunciated the “Middle-Way Approach” includes the following clarification: Without seeking independence for Tibet, the Central Tibetan Administration strives for the creation of a political entity comprising the three traditional provinces of Tibet.

Such an entity should enjoy a status of genuine national regional autonomy. This autonomy should be governed by the popularly-elected legislature and executive through a democratic process and should have an independent judicial system.

As soon as the above status is agreed upon by the Chinese government, Tibet would not seek separation from, and remain within, the People’s Republic of China.

Until the time Tibet is transformed into a zone of peace and non-violence, the Chinese government can keep a limited number of armed forces in Tibet for its protection.

The Central Government of the People’s Republic of China has the responsibility for the political aspects of Tibetan’s international relations and defence, whereas the Tibetan people should manage all other affairs pertaining to Tibet, such as religion and culture, education, economy, health, ecological and environmental protection.

The Chinese government should stop its policy of human rights violations in Tibet and the transfer of Chinese population into Tibetan areas. To resolve the issue of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shall take the main responsibility of sincerely pursuing negotiations and reconciliation with the Chinese government.

Dialogue process

From 2001 to 2010, there were a series of dialogues between representatives of the Dalai Lama and officials of the People’s Republic of China with the former asserting the “Middle-Way Approach” and repudiating the 17-point agreement between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Communist People’s Republic of China.

That had emerged after the civil war because it was made under duress and without the Dalai Lama’s consent and because the delegation was sent only to negotiate not to sign any treaty. The Tibetan Government in Exile claims that the seals used in the 17-point agreement were faked.

It appears that even the Americans support the concept of autonomy for Tibet within the Chinese sovereignty. US government annual ‘Report on Tibet Negotiations’ released in September 2012 reads: “The Dalai Lama repeatedly has disclaimed any intention to seek sovereignty or independence for Tibet and said he seeks for China to preserve Tibetan culture and religion, and its fragile environment through genuine autonomy.”

“We consistently urge China to respect the distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural identity of its Tibetan people and to fully respect the human rights and civil liberties of all of its citizens.”

The US report claimed that the “United States recognizes Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in other provinces as part of the People’s Republic of China.”

It also claimed that the US government does not recognize Tibet as an independent state and so does not conduct official diplomatic relations with the Central Tibetan Administration, an organization based in Dharamsala, India.

The US Government has urged the resumption of substantive dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and China.

From where, then, does the question of the liberation of Tibet arise? The Beijing Olympics of 2008 became the cynosure of protests all over Tibet and even inside China by persons of Tibetan descent protesting the Chinese heavy hand in Tibet.

It riled Beijing to high intensity and it broke off the dialogue process, apparently willing to wait out the time that the current incumbent Dalai Lama (the 14th) dies a natural death and China can then select and indoctrinate the next Dalai Lama and make him endorse the 17-point agreement.

Hitherto self-immolation has been the most violent form of disagreement with Beijing. This is a strategy already employed by China in respect of the Panchen Lama.

A six-year-old was selected, anointed as the Panchen Lama and soon he disappeared without trace. It is speculated in Tibetan circles that he has been taken away by China to dissociate him from Tibetan things and raise him as a Chinese.

He would then be presented to the Tibetan people when he attains adulthood and sings Chinese paens with fluency.

That is when thoughts of liberation from Chinese suzerainty will gather their own mass and momentum and it will remain to be seen how many governments recognise the need to liberate the Tibetan people from Chinese rule.

The seeds of a liberation struggle are being sown by a section of the Tibetan youth in the diaspora.

They are well organised as can be seen in the widespread demonstrations before and during the Olympics in Tibet and all around the globe.

They are articulate and Information Technology savvy. They are a nucleus around which a larger international network of liberationists can be created. They are bound to evince resonance within Tibet itself and that is when the Chinese will show their Tiananmen Square face.

Will the Tibetans in exile be able to create their own Tehrir Square ambiance is not just conjecture but a very likely possibility given Chinese growing belligerence with neighbours on its periphery, many of whom could begin to think that a China embroiled in handling internal dissensions would be a better neighbour than a China with a resurgent economy and a surfeit of weaponry.

Indo-Tibetan relations

India hosts one of the largest concentrations of Tibetans in exile and it shares the largest portion of border with the current Tibetan Autonomous Region. It would be expected that it will play a major part in encouraging Tibetan dissidents once the current Dalai Lama passes away.

It is also not outside the realm of possibility that the current Dalai Lama himself, seeing how the Chinese are dealing with his people, decide to give his people the freedom to choose between a full-fledged freedom struggle and his own middle path based on Gandhian non-violence.

The future of Indo-Tibetan relations is best illustrated in the interview given by the Dalai Lama’s representative Kasur Tashi Wangdi to Wikinews reporter David Shankbone who had asked in 2007: “What is your view on Arunachal Pradesh?

Is the Government-in-Exile’s relative silence over the issue due more to a recognition of India as a friendly government, or does the Government-in-Exile view the area as less Tibetan than the areas controlled by China?

TW: We are bound by the 1914 Simla Convention under which the McMahon Line was formed between India and Tibet. It has been accepted. Both by British India and the Tibetan government, so we are treaty bound.

At that time the Tibetan government entered into and signed that agreement. We can not change. The McMahon Line is the international boundary and whatever falls on either side of that line is the territory of either India or, as of now, the People’s Republic of China (Tibet). What more would India want?

India’s role in a Tibetan armed struggle will be crucial in that it is the one nation that has the largest number of Tibetans on its soil. It has the means of projecting power on the Tibetan plateau and its periphery.

It can, with some preparation in the Sam Manekshaw style, help create a resistance movement inside Tibet.

That it has assiduously not done so already is largely because it had reposed confidence in Chinese announcements that it seeks a peaceful resolution of the border dispute with India.

At the pace it is going there is no possibility of a peaceful settlement in the near future. Given Chinese intrusion into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, India will sooner or later have to decide when and how to pay China back in its own coin.