India will take right call on reincarnation of Dalai Lama, says Tibetan leader Tsering

May 04, 2022 12:00 AM IST

Tsering said while there were “one or two” back-channels with Chinese, it was nothing concrete and he did not respond through these channels.

Washington: Expressing full faith in the Indian government, Penpa Tsering, the head of the Central Tibetan Administration, has said India will take the right position at the right time on the question of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. His comments come even as India has remained silent on the question, while the United States, through an act in the Congress, has declared it would impose punitive measures if China interferes in the question of succession.

Head of the Central Tibetan Administration, Penpa Tsering, also said that China is “very very insecure” about the situation in Tibet. (AP)
Head of the Central Tibetan Administration, Penpa Tsering, also said that China is “very very insecure” about the situation in Tibet. (AP)

During a visit to Washington — where he met National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell, senior State Department officials and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — Tsering also said that China is “very very insecure” about the situation in Tibet and spoke of his dialogue with Uighur leaders and dissidents from Hong Kong, all of whom are opposed to the Chinese Communist Party’s increased domestic repression.

In an interview to HT, when asked about the key takeaways from his visit, Tsering said, “We have been telling the world about China’s policies and programmes, how they think, how they repress people, how they have destroyed not just Tibet but many other nationalities in China. We have been speaking about this for the last 50-60 years and not many have been very considerate about our opinion. Now everybody seems to realise that China is the real challenge as of now and also into the future.”

This, he claimed, had led to a greater sense of urgency, and greater understanding of the Tibetan position as well as restrategising in policy circles. “When we meet with the officials and Congress people, we get this sense. I think it’s not just with Tibet or the Tibetans, I’m sure it is the same with Uighurs or Hong Kongers. And during this visit also, I got the opportunity to meet some Hong Kong leaders and Uighur leaders. So overall, yes, there is a lot of interest and I go with a sense of satisfaction that we can look forward to more cooperation into the future.”

On the question of reincarnation, where China is expected to seek to impose its own preferences, Tsering expressed full faith in India’s position which will be key in determining the future of the Tibetan struggle and its spiritual leadership. “I trust the Indian government fully, and we have always maintained a very transparent relationship with the Indian government. I have full faith in the government that when it’s the right time, the Indian government will take its right position. I am sure everybody realises what has gone through history and both the Indian government and the people have a lot of sympathy for the Tibetan people.”

He also claimed that after China’s “unprovoked aggression” in Doklam and Galwan, India’s position had become stronger.

When asked about the generational rift within the Tibetan movement — the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile back a middle way approach that seeks autonomy through non-violent means and dialogue, while younger Tibetans are increasingly adopting a more radical position in favour of independence, including through militant means — Tsering said that the Dalai Lama’s approach was more liberal and pragmatic. “I keep telling the younger generation that you think that I am conservative, but sometimes I get this feeling that you are more conservative than us…So the younger generation, I tell them to read history first, understand the situation, understand the reality of the situation inside Tibet. Do we have the luxury? Can we afford such a stand?”

Tsering said that while there were “one or two” back-channels with Chinese, it was nothing concrete and he did not respond through these channels. “And if you look at the leadership’s thinking and their actions in Hong Kong or with Uighurs or in Tibet, it doesn’t look very likely that there could be openings.” But he added that China was “very, very insecure”, and that is why it insisted on other countries committing themselves to saying that Tibet was a part of the People’s Republic of China. “They themselves know that they don’t have the legitimacy. If they have the legitimacy, why should they approach the international community for legitimacy?”

Tsering was also sharply critical of the Nepal government, which has, in recent years, due to China’s pressure, cracked down on the rights of Tibetan refugees in the country as well as imposed strict controls on the border route that was used by Tibetans to travel. “Sometimes I feel pity for the Nepal government. Even if they are independent, they are in a worse situation than us and then they treat our people because of Chinese pressure in the manner that they are treating us now.” But the Tibetan leader added that Nepal had been Tibet’s, not China’s, neighbour for much of history and he looked forward to improving ties in the future.

On whether he saw the Dalai Lama being able to return to Tibet, Tsering said, “That’s why I keep saying let us see whether the Communist Party outlives His Holiness or His Holiness outlives the Communist Party.”

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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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