The Question of Tibet

The Karmapa has called for India to do more to help the Tibetan cause

For the first time since he escaped to India four years ago from Chinese-controlled Tibet, Karmapa lama Ugyen Trinley Dorji has stated that ‘‘Tibet’s problem is India’s problem’’ and that India ‘‘a big and powerful nation can do much more for the Tibetan cause’’ than it has been able to do so far.[Indian Express/Phayul]

Over fifty years ago, the Communists deposed the Buddhist theocratic regime under the nominal leadership of the Dalai Lama. Since then, China has strengthened its hold over Tibet and is increasingly linking it to the rest of the Chinese economy.

Many see India’s support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exiles as a moral cause. But the real issue is geopolitical. Should India antagonise its (much stronger) northern neighbour in order to support the Dalai Lama’s restoration? Ironically, those who advocate India’s support for Tibetan independence and the consequent confrontation with China are very often the same as those who advocate peace with Pakistan.

As indeed has been happening in the last few years, India and China need to shift away from controversies over the long border and focus on improving bilateral relations. For this to happen, it will be necessary to negotiate with China and arrive at a settlement over a number of issues. But morals dont lend themselves to negotiations. It is time to move away from morality and towards pragmatism.

So what should we do for the Tibetans? When India and China have a more mature bilateral relationship, India can suggest that China take measures to preserve the Tibetan ethos and way of life, and even accept the Lamas back as the Tibetan Buddhists’ spiritual leaders. But India must not take a position on Tibetan independence. In the meantime, two generations of Tibetans have been born and brought up in India. They are Indians for all intents and purposes, and form part of the rich multi-cultural milieu of India. Any attempts by the Indian Tibetans to integrate into mainstream India must be we welcomed. And as long as the Lamas do not jeopardise relations with China, they should be welcome to stay in India.

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