Tibet core issue, India must tell China: Tibetan leader

Last Updated 29 October 2018, 19:55 IST

The Tibetan Government-in-Exile wants New Delhi to make clear to China that Tibet was a core issue for India, too.

“China says Tibet is a core issue for it. India should respond to China. It must say that Tibet is a core issue for India as well,” wondered Lobsang Sangay, Sikyong (president) of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGiE), which is based in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.

Sangay was speaking after launching a report by the TgiE (officially known as Central Tibetan Administration) titled “Tibet was never a part of China, but Middle Way remains a viable solution.”

“Chinese President Xi Jinping often says stability and security of China are dependent on stability of security of Tibet. India should say that its own security and stability, too are dependent on security and stability of Tibet,” said Sangay.

Sangay's remark and the report of the TGiE have come at a time when India is trying to mend its ties with China after the bilateral relations between the two neighbours hit a new low last year over the military face-off between Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan.

New Delhi, earlier this year, advised “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” to avoid sharing podium with Dalai Lama, who, even after delegating his political powers to leaders elected by the exiled Tibetans, remains the icon of the community's struggle against China's rule in Tibet. The advisory issued by Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of India fuelled speculation that New Delhi was reviewing its traditional policy on Dalai Lama and the struggle by the exiled Tibetans, ostensibly in order to avert hurting the sensitivity of its communist neighbour and to ensure that the efforts to mend ties do not suffer a setback.

Beijing calls Dalai Lama a splittist and has been accusing him, Sangay and other leaders of the exiled Tibetans of leading a secessionist movement to undermine China's sovereignty over Tibet.

China in April 2017 strongly criticised India for facilitating Dalai Lama’s visits to Tawang in Aruanchal Pradesh – very close to the disputed boundary between the two nations. New Delhi cold-shouldered Beijing's protest, saying that Dalai Lama was a much revered spiritual leader and, being an honoured guest, he could visit any place in India.

But, after June-August 2017 military face-off at Doklam Plateau in Bhutan, New Delhi subtly changed its tack. The TGiE was made to scale down an event it held to thank India for giving refuge to so many Tibetans. It was also made to shift the venue from New Delhi to Dharamshala.

Sangay on Monday said that genuine autonomy in Tibet would be a win-win outcome for both China and India.

He said that the “Freedom of Tibet would ensure security of India” had so far remained a slogan for friends of Tibet in India. It, however, had not yet turned into a policy of the Government of India.

His comments came just a few weeks ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sideline of the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The “informal summit” between Modi and Xi in Wuhan in April brought about a thaw in the relations. They followed it up with meetings at Qingdao on east coast of China on June 9 as well as at Johannesburg in South Africa on July 26 – both on the sidelines of multilateral summits. The two sides also had a series of engagements between commerce ministers, defence ministers and home ministers. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will host her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi next month for a meeting.

(Published 29 October 2018, 15:31 IST)

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