I wonder if the Tibetans-in-exile in India and several other nations will ever be able to return back to their homeland. Their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has since long been doing his best to end their predicament. One of the finest practitioners of the Gandhian methodology of political struggle in our times, he has long abandoned any demand for independence for Tibet. In 1974 he came forward with his middle-way policy, according to which subjects of diplomacy, defense, communication and finance will be under the jurisdiction of the central government in Beijing and those of culture, education, environment and religion under the provincial Tibetan government in Lhasa. In harmony with the Dalai’s framework, his representatives have presented to Beijing a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People.
This memorandum complies with the conditions for national regional autonomy set forth in the Chinese constitution and the 17-Point Agreement of 1951. I find there is nothing objectionable about the Dalai’s proposition that all Tibetans be brought under a single autonomous administration. Signing the 17-Point Agreement, even Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, had acknowledged it as a reasonable demand. In 1956, when establishing the Preparatory Committee for the "Tibet Autonomous Region", Vice-Premier Chen Yi pointing at a map said, if Lhasa could be made the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which included the Tibetan areas within the other provinces, it would contribute to the development of Tibet and friendship between the Tibetan and Chinese nationalities.
However, there has been no movement forward. Beijing seems to have been continuously suspicious of the Dalai and his supporters. It has alleged that they “are trying to push extreme and radical views.” It has continued to reiterate it would be willing for talks with Dharamsala only “if the Dalai Lama truly gives up Tibetan independence.” The authorities in China have been saying that the several rounds of talks, held since the re-establishment of contacts between Beijing and Dharamsala in 2002, have gone astray, principally because the Dalai has had a separatist agenda to spread his authority over entire Tibet, including, Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan.
Last week I happened to lead a mixed media delegation from India, Nepal and Bhutan to interact with Lhasa-based Tibetan Autonomous Region officials. I found there was little change as of now in their perception of the Dalai. I asked Executive Deputy Secretary of the CPC Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region Wu Yingjie what the status of dialogue between Beijing and Dharamsala on solving the Tibetan question was and the nine rounds of talks between the two ended in a stalemate in 2010, he said, their demands were simply unacceptable. Pressed on what he thought was wrong with the Dalai’s various proposals on the matter, he said they were designs not for “genuine autonomy” but greater autonomy. He said they did not give even the subject of defense to the central government, for they demanded the demilitarization of Tibet and the creation of a buffer zone. “How can the Dalai Lama demand that China withdraw its army from Tibet? The army is a symbol of our state. Will India agree to withdraw its army from Arunachal Pradesh?” he retorted.
He asserted that “the talks between the Dalai’s representatives and Beijing are ongoing and smooth. We are discussing only his future, not Tibet’s.” Many Tibetan leaders had chosen to return to Tibet in recent years. A senior Lama in Chengdu had returned from Switzerland. All Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and the people around him, could return if they accepted Tibet and Taiwan as part of China and abandoned their ‘splittist’ efforts, he said.
Our delegation found that the Director of the Information Office of TAR Jigme Wangto in Lhasa and Professor of Tibetology Research Center Lian Xiagmin in Beijing held similar views. The latter even alleged that the Dalia had instigated most of the self-immolations that had recently taken place in Tibet.
Given the functioning of the contemporary international system, if there is one at all, I don’t think it can make much difference to the Chinese perception and policy response in the matter. In the recent past the European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on China to resume constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama's representatives on “real autonomy for Tibet” and “consider the Memorandum for Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan people of November 2008 as a basis for substantive discussion…” The US State Department has said only "a substantive dialogue" with the Dalai Lama's representative could bring a “true and lasting stability in Tibet.” The American Congress passed a resolution recognizing the plight of Tibet's people and their exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and calling upon China to “cease its repression of the Tibetan people and to lift immediately the harsh policies imposed on Tibetans.” Besides, US President Barack Obama and several other leaders of stature in the democratic West have raised the Tibetan issue with their successive Chinese counterparts and urged them to talk to the Dalai and resolve the issue. But all this has had little effect.
I am looking forward to seeing what the Dalai does to win the hearts and minds of those who matter in the Chinese system today. I am more than convinced his is a philosophy of co-existence. In a media interaction once the Dalai said, “We must build good relations with the Chinese…we should not develop anti-Chinese feelings. We must live together side by side. In Tibet, Han Chinese and Tibetans can live happily… Don’t commit violence… Violence is against human nature. ”
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.