By Tenpa Dhargyal Gashi
I just happen to come across an article on Indian Express, dated April 2nd, 2012, where it was alleged that China is once again willing to talk to H.H the Dalai Lama if he abandons his "...independence political objective" - one more time I suppose. It further rehashed the non-entity of the exile government and other exile organizations. It was right in the midst of the Olympic demonstrations in 2008, as China was facing one embarrassing media episode after another by Tibetan activists, when they were in a mood to have another talk with H.H’s representatives. It effectively quelled all the international dramas and gave some talking points to the spineless politicians across the globe and moreover allowed China to portray itself as a civilized society and shamelessly parade around as just another normal country. We all know what the outcome was for the talks then, where they categorically refused to entertain any common ground on the issues facing them and instead went on another round of vile name calling on the stature of His Holiness.
Now, with the recent determined self-immolations inside Tibet and outside Tibet which is causing mild international condemnation and defacing China’s image as a tolerably progressive society, they are yet again back to the same old tactic of luring us with a bait. What is surprising is that they have continued to vilify H.H in the meantime and accuse the 1989 Nobel Laureate and internationally recognized man of peace as a prime instigator of the self-immolations. While this allegation is preposterous and only a fool or an apologist would take it seriously; why engage in this double talk at all if they truly wish to resolve the situation inside Tibet? That alone should be enough to ascertain the sincerity of their offer and foreshadow what is to become of the talks if our side decides to entertain it. For the present, the spokesperson for CTA has correctly termed it ‘unofficial’ and dismissed it as ‘rhetoric’ and ‘repetitive’ which was a pointed response and refreshingly le mot juste.
It should be obvious to everybody by now such fruitless dialogue or negotiation does not help Tibet’s cause one tiny bit and it only furthers the myth of flexible China in the international arena. After nine such talks, their position has not changed one bit while ours have gone through seismic alterations – to our own detriment. There is no reason to carry on this facade any further as the end result is easily discernible. It is like watching a movie nine times and hoping it will end differently this time. I believe to further engage in such masquerade would be dishonourable to the memory of those who have given up their lives for our country and to every self-respecting Tibetan.
If our side decides to bite on this offer, as it were, I believe it is time we set forth certain pre-conditions ourselves to protect our own interests in the long run; such as formally requesting a third party presence in the negotiations, preferably a neutral country to facilitate the negotiations or failing that a special UN appointed representative to oversee the proceedings. Maybe even a panel of Nobel Laureates to act as facilitators as they seem supportive of the dialogue process itself and has recently called upon China to talk to H.H the Dalai Lama. Even making such a request will give us legitimacy in the international arena because it will now put the ball in the court of those who push us to negotiate with China and moreover put China in a defensive position where they will appear somewhat unreasonable if they cannot agree to a simple presence of a facilitator which is a common adopted policy in most dispute. This will also showcase the seriousness of our resolve to the Chinese counterparts as up till now they have been used to our submissiveness. I understand the overwhelmingly reluctance China harbour when it comes to others ‘interfering’ with their ‘internal problems’ but apparently has no scruples when they are the instigator in Nepal, Burma, North Korea etc; it is precisely because of that we should pursue that course as it will not only stop us from further engaging in fruitless talks but at the same time placing the burden on their side. If nothing happens, we haven’t lost anything and if something happens, we will definitely gain a foothold that could very well open up new possibilities in the future. It is time for us to take some risks as a community and throw caution to the wind, especially since the dire situation inside Tibet does not appear to be abating anytime soon. This might go a long way in convincing Tibetans inside Tibet that our exile leaders are taking bold initiatives on their behalf instead of flogging a dead horse one more time and might secure their trust and respect – as far as political direction is concerned - because as of right now it is amply clear they have taken the rein in their own hands and are determined to finish it one way or the other. This calls for a visionary leader to take the next step and I hope our Silon Lobsang Sangay la is up for the challenge. I am happy that he has publicly called for UN intervention in Tibet and I sincerely believe this is the next logical step.
This brings up an interesting question as to who should be authorized to negotiate for Tibet’s future; Dalai Lama’s envoys or the representatives of the CTA? H.H is no longer the political head of the Tibetan Diaspora and further more he had repeatedly stated that the issue of Tibet is not about the status of the Dalai Lama but the people of Tibet, both inside and outside Tibet. As such, it would seem peculiar now if the talks are going to be headed by the envoys of H.H as that will only strengthen the Chinese claim that the issue is only about the status of H.H and nothing more. Of course, the CTA can approve the current team or a new team on behalf of H.H as a circuitous way around the delicate face saving procedure and still carry on the talks but I think it might be advantageous for us to rethink that whole scenario; specifically concerning the awkward autonomy of the envoys themselves who technically doesn’t have to answer to Tibetan people’s representatives. Recently, Lodi Gyari, special envoy of H.H had blistered at the suggestion CTA has the authority to appoint the envoys in the future negotiations, delineating a rather sensitive line that has been crossed. On the Chinese side, they have been adamant they will not recognize the exile Government and will only talk to the envoys of H.H. At the same time; it is abundantly clear they mean to belittle the issue of Tibet only to the status of H.H’s own well being and status which does not help further our cause.
One thing is quite clear as it relates to recent self-immolations inside Tibet; China is concerned, not only of possible turbulent times inside Tibet but the potentiality of the spark spreading further inland where the dry leaves of grievances abound and with the recent wide spread exposure of Pawo Jamphel Yeshi on the front pages of international media, the international politicians are slowly throwing their weights behind some sort of engagement on behalf of the Tibetans, if only to stop further bloodshed. What is also clear is that Tibetans inside Tibet are beyond fed up with the Chinese draconian rule and the moreover are willing to take hitherto unseen extreme, heroic, and historic steps to let the world know of their plight. Although the small minded commentators and TV personalities concerned themselves with the Buddhist etiquettes regarding self-immolations, unfortunately helping to derail the focus of the real issues concerning Tibetans under the oppressive Colonial rule, with our own people further exasperating it by engaging in the unnecessary debate over it, the Tibetan people inside Tibet continued the self-immolations unabated. We are human beings first, then a Tibetan, and then a Buddhist; and exactly in that order. It is time we stop letting others define who we are and drawing from the examples set by our martyrs, we choose the time and the place ourselves by refusing to engage in such puerile discussions and draw the focus back to the issue at hand: Oppressive Colonial power and the enslaved natives.
Another thing that could be roughly ascertained is that the Tibetans inside Tibet, as evidenced by their vociferous calls for the return of H.H the 14th Dalai lama back to Tibet, would be immeasurably distraught if H.H happen to pass away in exile, without getting the chance to step on the precious soil of his beloved homeland. Such an episode in the future could effectively mar the chances of reconciliation between the Tibetans and their oppressors. I frankly believe Tibetans will not easily forgive such a grave insult, not that I am trying to belittle the other grave atrocities they have committed on the Tibetan people. Coupled with the other grievances at hand, which are many, and with the recent willingness to martyr themselves for their country, that particular incident might be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back and I am afraid it could very well turn violent to the detriment of both. Right now, whatever hardships they may face, they can still envision the happy face of H.H and be content that he is at least safe in exile. As long as H.H the Dalai Lama is alive, there is always hope for them, however slim it might appear to be. Moreover, they would not dare to embarrass H.H while he is alive by engaging in violent acts which he clearly disapproves. Now, with H.H gone and the grief and anguish that will naturally follow, mixed in with the anger and frustration of a generation under the Chinese hard-line policies and the willingness to adopt extreme measures, it is not far-fetched to envision such an unfortunate turn of events in our future. At the risk of being accused of Jingoism, nonetheless, I believe it is of extreme importance for us to have some sort of thought out policies regarding how to deal with such dire possibility in the future and if possible, how best to avoid such a scenario from happening in the first place, and failing that how best to support our brethrens inside Tibet. Because it simply won’t do to just criticize them and wipe our hands clean when they have every right in the world to react that way, however futile it might be. There is a clear distinction between aggression and self-defense and they are not equitable as it is generally made out to be in our rather new age mindset. It is one thing to say violence won’t be the option in our case but quite another to say that violence has never achieved anything positive; for I would like to point out without positive violence on the side of the good, the American Civil War and World War 2 would have ended quite differently and the world would have been quite different today. I, for one, will support any measure they adopt inside Tibet. I just hope they won’t go that route.
It would be advisable for the Chinese leaders to take heed of the escalating situation inside Tibet and seriously engage in comprehensive reviews of their policies in the short term and to effectively resolve the issue of Tibet to the Tibetan people’s satisfaction but I would be wasting my breath. It reminds me of one of Mark Twain’s aphorisms: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”