New chief of India-based exiled Tibet govt wants talks with China for ‘mutually beneficial’ solution

Tsering reaffirmed commitment to Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach of demanding genuine autonomy, not independence, for Tibet
Last Updated 27 May 2021, 12:35 IST

The Tibetan Government-in-Exile based in India will reach out to the Government of China to negotiate a “mutually beneficial” solution to the “Sino-Tibet conflict”, its new Sikyong (President) Penpa Tsering said on Thursday.

Soon after being sworn into the top office of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile based at Dharamshala in India, Tsering reaffirmed commitment to Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach of demanding genuine autonomy, not independence, for Tibet.

He said that the TGiE would resolutely tread the path of the Middle Way, which was espoused by the Dalai Lama and which commanded high degree of support by the general population in and outside Tibet and had been unanimously approved by the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. “Based on which (middle way approach), we will reach out to the Chinese Government to find a mutually beneficial, negotiated, non-violent solution to the Sino-Tibet conflict. We hope that this in turn shall set a good example in resolving conflicts around the world, '' he said.

The senior officials of the Chinese Government had nine rounds of talks, including one informal, with the 14th Dalai Lama’s representatives between 2002 and 2010. But the negotiations remained suspended since 2010.

The Dalai Lama set up the TGiE or the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) on April 29, 1959, just a few weeks after he arrived in India following his escape from Tibet, which had been occupied by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1950-51. The CTA calls itself the “continuation of the government of independent Tibet”.

Tsering’s parents were among the early thousands who had followed the Dalai Lama and fled to India after their homeland was occupied by China. They settled in Bylakuppe in Karnataka and raised their children, including Tsering, who recently won the elections to the office of the Sikyong of the TGiE (or the CTA). The Tibetans living in exile in India and the other countries around the world took part in the global elections, which had two rounds and the polling for the final round had taken place last month.

He took office on Thursday, succeeding Lobsang Sangay.

Tsering said that he and the Kashag (Council of Ministers) would represent the voices of Tibetans living in Tibet ruled by China.

“We shall monitor and conduct thorough study of the basic issues concerning environmental destruction and protection of the Tibetan national identity inside Tibet. We shall not dither from pointing out the gross mistakes of the Chinese government’s policies and programs and seek to redress, withdraw or amend the wrong policies,” said the new TGiE head.

“Likewise,” he added, “we will put in every effort to seek increased interaction between Tibetans in Tibet and those in exile and work towards realizing the wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit China.”

What has added to the significance of the election of the Sikyong this year is that the democratic exercise by the exiled Tibetans got endorsement from the US last year. The US Congress late last year passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) of 2020, acknowledging the legitimacy of both the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TpiE) and the TGiE or the CTA. The TPSA 2020, which the then US President Donald Trump signed into law, acknowledged the Central Tibetan Administration as the “legitimate institution reflecting the aspirations” of the Tibetan Diaspora around the world with Sikyong as its President.

Tsering was congratulated by the US State Department. This is the first time the US Government officially congratulated the winner of the election to the office of the CTA Sikyong .

The new TGiE chief was also congratulated by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

India, however, maintained silence, as it so far never officially acknowledged the existence of the TGiE or the CTA, despite allowing it to run from its territory for decades.

Beijing does not recognize the elections to the Sikyong and the TPiE and repeatedly asked India to shut down the TGiE. It has been accusing the Dalai Lama as well as the TGiE of running a secessionist campaign against China.

New Delhi did tacitly encourage the Dalai Lama to lead the exiled community to embrace democracy gradually – starting with electing the Parliament-in-Exile and then moving on to directly elect the leader of the TGiE. It was during the 2011 elections that Dalai Lama officially announced that he would be delegating his political powers to whoever would be elected democratically to the top office of the TGiE – a move, which was apparently aimed at avoiding a leadership vacuum and keeping the struggle against China’s rule in Tibet alive beyond the lifetime of the octogenarian monk.

(Published 27 May 2021, 12:35 IST)

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