In the run-up to Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit to India this week, a close aide and envoy of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama has asked India to 'proactively take up the Tibet issue' with China, and 'find a peaceful solution to the issue'.
In an interview to HT, Tampa Tsering, the Dalai Lama's representative in Delhi, argued that strong governments in both countries provide the right opportunity for the move, elaborated on the Dalai Lama's move about his succession, and explained their relationship with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
"The Government of India has been kind, generous and understanding and we could not have had better hosts. But we would like them to be more proactive to find a final solution. It will be helpful if India raises the issue with China...And if there is peace in Tibet, it will also help improve ties between the two countries."
Tsering said that there was a new strong government in Delhi with a clear mandate. He also spoke of certain 'indications' from Beijing of a possibly more liberal approach, though there have been no formal talks between China and Tibetan exile representatives since 2010.
"Since Xi took over, he has consolidated power and people say that he is the most powerful leader in China after Mao. He has been decisive on issues like corruption in the party, and on PLA and state."
The president, Tsering said, had suffered due to the Cultural Revolution. "When he addressed Tibetan delegates to the National People's Congress in March this year, he spoke about paying heed to Tibetan culture. This is a departure because Chinese leaders would only speak of so called development."
Xi had also spoken of Buddhism as an aspect of Chinese culture during a visit to France, and has not publicly criticised the Dalai Lama in strong terms yet. "His father, Xi Zhongxun, was a friend of Tibet, and wrote the Panchen Lama's biography."
Tsering said they did not know what to make of this yet. "It is difficult to read anything into this and we don't know what it means." But he felt that it did provide the right opportunity to raise the issue. Recently, a Chinese Communist a Party official in Tibet told visiting South Asian journalists that they were speaking to the Dalai Lama about his future. Tsering denied there was any formal talk, and clarified, "They have always spoken of his return, but His Holiness is clear that he in only one person. The issue of Tibet is of the Tibetan people and their well being."
In recent comments to a German paper, the Dalai Lama had indicated that there may not be a Dalai Lama after him, triggering a reaction from the Chinese who asked him to respect reincarnation and said title is conferred by the central government. Tsering clarified that Dalai Lama believes that the institution has served Tibetan people and Buddhist dharma well for 400 years but it is for the Tibetan people to decide if there is benefit from its continuity.
"The Chinese follow a communist system, they believe religion is poison. It is unreasonable for them to meddle is religious matters."
Tsering said there were two ways of succession - reincarnation where there is a search for a future Dalai Lama after the death of the current one, and 'emanation' where the existing Dalai Lama chooses his successor. "Dalai Lama has already said that if issue of Tibet isn't resolved, he will not be born in a closed society but a free society." This rules out China.
There has been speculation about the links of the Tibetan movement with the RSS. Tibetan PM in exile Lobsang Sangay was at Narendra Modi's swearing in, RSS leader Indresh Kumar has been felicitated in Dharamshala, and a member of the government in exile, Dolma Gyari, met RSS chief. Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur in August.
When asked about the link, Tsering said, "We are in India as guests, as refugees. We try to have relations with all civil society groups, religious denominations. We don't have favour any one relationship but have equal relations with all parties, movements, and civil society. There is no special relationship."