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Ready to negotiate with China: Tibetan leader

india Updated: Jun 18, 2011 10:55 IST

"We are ready to negotiate with the Chinese government any time, anywhere," said Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister-elect of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The new Kalon Tripa (prime minister), at 42 the youngest to head the government-in-exile, has been busy preparing to take on a responsibility that has increased significance after the Dalai Lama last month devolved his "political and administrative authority" to the elected leadership.

Back home from the US following his March 20 election, Sangay is working hard from his Dharamsala office to ready himself by the time he formally assumes office in August.

His day begins with a tête-à-tête with his political mentor and incumbent Samdhong Rinpoche and visits to various departments of the administration-in-exile here.

"Our first priority is to start dialogue with China. We are ready to negotiate with the Chinese government any time, anywhere. We believe dialogue is the only road forward," Sangay told IANS in an interview.

"Our talks will be based on the memorandum on genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people," he said.

China and the Dalai Lama's envoys have held nine rounds of talks since 2002 to resolve the Tibetan issue. But no major breakthrough has been achieved so far.

Sangay said his government would seek genuine autonomy for Tibet under the Chinese constitution following the Dalai Lama's policy of "middle path".

"I stand for the 'middle-way policy' which is seeking a resolution for the Tibetan problem within the framework of the constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC)," the prime minister-elect said.

"We hope that the Chinese authorities would respond positively to our conciliatory gestures since we are not seeking a separation from China but freedom and dignity for the Tibetan people within the framework of the PRC," Sangay said.

Sitting in his office room in upper Dharamsala, tweeting and updating his Facebook status, the senior fellow of Harvard Law School repudiated the recent charges of the official Chinese Tibet magazine, describing the government-in-exile as a "splittist" political clique and claiming that it has no status to talk with the central government's representatives.

Sangay said, "We are confident because much of the official propaganda we believe is aimed for domestic consumption. There is a growing sympathy for Tibet amongst young liberal-minded Chinese.

"While His Holiness the Dalai Lama had been wrongfully vilified by the authorities and the state-sponsored media, he is increasingly popular amongst Chinese intellectuals, especially those abroad. In this context, we continue to remain confident and hopeful".

According to Sangay, the key challenges facing the Tibetan people right now is preserving the rich linguistic, religious and cultural tradition which has come under assault from Chinese policies inside Tibet.

"With the growing age of the elder generation, it is the responsibility of the younger generation to take the movement forward and seek a resolution to the Tibetan problem," he said on the Dalai Lama devolving his political powers.

On making Tibetan youth-in-exile more self-reliant and less dependent on foreign aid, the Kalon Tripa-elect said "self-reliance" is one of the three main policies of his administration, the other two being "unity" and "innovation".

He has plans to check the poor growth rate of Tibetans-in-exile. "We could provide economic incentives for family with more children so that the population growth rate is maintained."

Sangay, who has spent the past 15 years at Harvard University, was once dubbed a "terrorist" by China because of his earlier association with the militant Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest group of exiles.

Born in 1968 in India, he is often quoted as saying, "India is my second home. I have never been to my first home (Tibet)."

His father, who was settled in a village near Darjeeling, fled Tibet at the same time as the Dalai Lama in 1959.

Sangay did his early education from a refugee school in Darjeeling and studied law from Delhi University before moving for doctoral studies in Harvard.

He has been chosen in the third direct elections for the Kalon Tripa that were held March 20. He will succeed the incumbent, Samdhong Rinpoche, who faced only two symbolic contests.

Sangay polled 55 % of the votes cast by Tibetans around the world.

He defeated diplomats Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Tashi Wangdi.

Some 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.