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Tibetan govt-in-exile, China holding back-channel talks; aiming to revive stalled dialogue process

The Sikyong or political head of Tibet's government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, confirming the informal talks, said his interlocutor has been dealing with 'people in Beijing' but there is no immediate expectation of a forward movement.
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 05:00 IST
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 05:00 IST

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Dharamshala: The Tibetan government-in-exile and China are holding back-channel talks, signalling signs of willingness by both sides to re-engage over a decade after the formal dialogue process hit a dead end in view of anti-China protests in Tibet and Beijing's hardline approach towards the Buddhist region.

The Sikyong or political head of Tibet's government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering, confirming the informal talks, said his interlocutor has been dealing with 'people in Beijing' but there is no immediate expectation of a forward movement.

"We have had back-channel (engagement) since last year. But we have no immediate expectations from it. It has to be a long-term (one)," Tsering told a small group of journalists, insisting that the talks are 'very informal'.

"I have my interlocutor who deals with people in Beijing. Then there are other elements also trying to reach out to us," the head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said.

From 2002 to 2010, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's representatives and the Chinese government held nine rounds of dialogue that did not produce any concrete outcome. No formal talks have been held since then.

Another senior Tibetan leader indicated that the back-channel talks are aimed at reviving the overall dialogue process as it is the only way out to resolve the Tibetan issue.

The CTA leader, referring to the frosty ties between New Delhi and Beijing following the eastern Ladakh row in 2020, said the Chinese belligerence along the Indian border highlighted the Tibetan issue in India.

"With the Chinese belligerence on the border, the Tibetan issue also naturally gets highlighted in India," he said.

At the same time, Tsering pitched for greater support from India to the Tibetan cause.

"Now you can see that India's foreign policy is becoming more vibrant. India's influence around the world is also growing. In that sense, we would definitely want India to be a little more vocal towards the Tibetan cause," he said.

After a failed anti-Chinese uprising in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and came to India where he set up the government-in-exile. The Chinese government officials and the Dalai Lama or his representatives have not met in formal negotiations since 2010.

Beijing has been maintaining that it freed 'serfs and slaves' from a brutal theocracy in Tibet and is bringing the region on the path of prosperity and modernisation.

China has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in 'separatist' activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him a divisive figure.

However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but 'genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet' under the 'Middle-Way approach'.

Relations between the two sides strained further due to protests against China in Tibetan areas in 2008.

The Dalai Lama has been favouring resolution of the Tibetan issue through dialogue.

"I am always open to talks with China and have made it clear years ago that we are not seeking complete independence and would remain a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC)," the Dalai Lama said last year.

In his remarks, Tsering suggested that less complicated relations between India and China could help in moving positively toward the resolution of the Tibetan issue.

In this context, he also highlighted the deep-rooted connection between Indian and Tibetan culture and heritage.

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama keeps saying that 'I am a son of Indian soil' and that 'I'm a messenger of Indian wisdom'. So we are close to Indian culture but not to China's," he said.

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Published 25 April 2024, 05:00 IST

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