‘Doklam is part of China’s expansionist policy’

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 08, 2018

LOBSANG SANGAY, President of Central Tibetan Administration and Leader of the Tibetan Government-in-exile

What happened to Tibet, can happen to India: Leader of Tibet’s govt-in-exile

Lobsang Sangay, President of Central Tibetan Administration and Leader of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, believes that China’s expansionist policy is engulfing all its neighbours, just as what happened to Tibet. In an interview with BusinessLine, he said the Tibetan movement had become more relevant now than ever. Excerpts:

Are you increasingly finding that the Tibetan movement is getting sidelined with changing global dynamics?

Generally, at the level of governments there is a bit of hesitation because of the increasing influence and reach of the Chinese government. At the people level, there is growing interest because they want to understand what real China is. China wants to be number one today. And to become number one, it has to be responsible and accountable. To understand China, you must know Tibet. When you see the atrocities and sufferings that Tibet has gone through, then you understand what China is capable of. So from South China Sea, Senkaku Islands, Doklam, it is imposing its influence on all neighbouring countries. We have been saying this for more than 50 years now, that what happened to us, could happen to you. So, now the story of Tibet is becoming more relevant. What was happening behind closed doors earlier, is now happening openly. That’s a change.

Do you think that is the reason why we saw an incident like Doklam, because India is supporting the cause more openly now?

We must understand that when Tibet was occupied in the 1950s, many neighbouring countries said it was tragic, they did not do much and thought this will not happen to them. Now these countries are realising that this is also happening to them. Chinese leaders, including Mao Zedong, have always claimed that Tibet is the palm that they must occupy and once it is done, they will take over the five fingers — Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. This was a declared policy of China. So, when Doklam happened, the primary objective was and will always be to take over the five fingers. This is nothing new. Just look South China Sea. They are taking over islands and building military bases. The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan are complaining because their territories are being taken over. Doklam is also part of the expansionist policy.

It seems US support has tapered and so has its budgetary allocation …

What India has done for Tibet, nobody has done. After India, America has extended maximum support to Tibet. The White House has supported our ‘Middle Way’ approach to seek genuine autonomy from China. There is a budget funding provided for the Tibetan people. And we are hopeful that the Trump administration will continue the support. During his confirmation hearing, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed support for the human rights of the Tibetan people.

But what about US funding of the Tibetan movement?

Funding for the Tibetan cause has always come from the US Congress. US Congressional Appropriation Committee has generally supported funding for the Tibetan people. And both the House Appropriation Committee and Senate Appropriation Committee have indicated that funding for Tibetan people should not be less than last year. So, I hope it will continue.

What is the five-fifty plan?

This is about short-term and long-term plans. That is necessary for every movement. Under this, what we are saying is within five years there should be peaceful dialogue between the envoys of Dalai Lama and the Chinese government to solve the Tibetan issue. If need be, we also need a 50-year plan on how to retain the movement and keep it more dynamic. We hope the Chinese government will now discuss the Tibet plan. Tibet is a low hanging fruit, they can resolve it easily. We want to solve the issue of Tibet with dialogue, not guns.

How do you see the co-existence of Tibet with the ‘One China’ policy?

The US has supported the ‘Middle Way’ policy and at the same time it has also supported the ‘One China’ policy. So, within the one China, genuinely autonomous Tibet will also be there. Chinese leaders must recognise this.

How do you plan to take the negotiations, stalled since 2010, forward with China?

We should continue to meet and look at this issue more seriously and try to find an amicable solution. Hopefully, in his second term, Chinese President Xi Jinping will look for issues to be resolved, and Tibet is a low-hanging fruit. That will be good for him, good for China, and good for Tibet.

Published on October 17, 2017

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