Dalai opts out of political role

Hands over power to an elected leader

Dalai opts out of political role

After leading the Tibetans’ struggle for ‘genuine autonomy’ in Chinese-occupied Tibet for the past 52 years, the Dalai Lama on Thursday made public his plans to retire from the political leadership of the community and pass the baton to the democratically elected chief of the government-in-exile.

Making the annoucement in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, on the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day, the Dalai Lama, however, said he will remain a spiritual leader and continue to advocate “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama has been articulating his plans to relinquish political leadership of the Tibetans and gradually delegating powers to the Kalon Tripa or the prime minister of the exiled government over the past decade.

But the 75-year-old Nobel laureate announced he would send a proposal to the Tibetan parliament-in-exile to amend the community’s charter to formally devolve his powers to the elected leader.

“As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by them, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect,” he said in his annual address to the community.

The Dalai Lama said he would formally send a proposal to the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, which would begin its next session on Monday, to amend the charter that governs the functioning of the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamshala.

He added that the proposed amendments to the charter for Tibetans-in-exile would reflect his decision to devolve his “formal authority to the elected leader”.

Reacting cautiously to the Dalai Lama’s statement, Ministry of External Affairs (External Publicity) and spokesman Vishnu Prakash said: “Dalai Lama is an honoured guest in India. He is a spiritual and religious leader.”

Though Tibet is a card that India counts on to manage its complex relation with China, New Delhi has never publicly acknowledged the Dalai Lama’s political leadership in leading the Tibetans’ struggle for ‘genuine autonomy’.  Neither has it ever recognised the Tibetan government-in-exile.

In a quick and predictable response, Beijing said the talk of retirement “are his (Dalai) tricks to deceive the international community.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said “the Dalai is a political exile under a religious cloak long engaged in activities aimed at splitting China,” adding that “the government-in-exile is an illegal political organistion and no country in the world recognises it.”

Calling on China’s leaders to show greater transparency, the Dalai said the “emerging wold power” has a potential to contribute to human progress and world peace.
But to do that, China must earn the international community’s respect and trust. “In order to earn such respect China’s leaders must develop greater transparency, their actions corresponding to their words. To ensure this, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential.”

The Dalai Lama’s statement is seen as a deft move by the ageing leader to forestall Beijing’s attempts to stymie the Tibetans’ struggle for a free Tibet after his demise. Anticipating that Beijing might try to prop up claimants to counter the one chosen by him or his aides as his successor and thus trigger a chaos after his demise, the Dalai Lama has been trying to reduce the political power vested in him and instead empowering the Kalon Tripa and the government-in-exile.

But Samdhong Rinpoche, who completes his second five-year-term as Kalon Tripa this year, said that the Dalai Lama did not need to retire from political leadership of the community to add legitimacy to the government-in-exile. “The process of democratisation initiated by him (Dalai Lama) has already been completed with the executive powers vested in the government-in-exile. He has already turned his position into what resembles that of the queen in the UK,” Rinpoche told Deccan Herald.

He, however, said it seemed difficult for him and other leaders of the community to dissuade the Dalai Lama from retiring as he had apparently made up his mind.

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