Tibetan delegation meets MPs, political leaders, raises China’s ‘hydro-hegemony’
The delegation’s visit to advocate the Tibetan issue in New Delhi comes a little more than a week after a trip to India by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. Such interactions by Tibetan delegations are closely coordinated with Indian authorities.
A Tibetan parliamentary delegation has been meeting Indian MPs and political leaders this week, with the focus on interactions with lawmakers from the north-eastern states to discuss China’s “hydro-hegemony” by controlling waters of cross-border rivers such as the Brahmaputra.
The delegation led by Dolma Tsering Teykhang, deputy speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, and comprising parliamentarians Tenpa Yarphel, Khenpo Kada Ngedup Sonam and Phurpa Dorjee Gyaldhong has met 38 MPs of different parties and Union law minister Kiren Rijiju since Monday.
The delegation’s visit to advocate the Tibetan issue in New Delhi comes a little more than a week after a trip to India by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. Such interactions by Tibetan delegations are closely coordinated with Indian authorities. Following a similar interaction last December, a Chinese embassy official had taken the unprecedented step of writing directly to Indian MPs to oppose their meeting with members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.
Teykhang said on Thursday the objective of the current round of meetings is to inform Indian parliamentarians and political leaders about human rights issues and the targeting of Tibetan culture and religion by Chinese authorities.
“Till the Tibet conflict with China is resolved, it is our prime duty as members of parliament to reach out to Indian parliamentarians to appraise them about the serious condition of human rights violations in Tibet, and how culture and religion are being targeted in Tibet,” she said.
“And the second thing that we were appraising them about is that if you want to secure border peace in Arunachal Pradesh, Galwan Valley or other places, you need to urge China to come to the table for dialogue with representatives of [the Dalai Lama],” she added.
The Tibetan delegation interacted with 22 MPs from north-eastern states at a meeting arranged on April 5 by law minister Rijiju, who is the convener of a group of lawmakers from the region. Teykhang described this meeting as a “very interactive gathering” during which the Tibetan side raised the water crisis faced by north-eastern states that has its origins in Tibet.
“The focus on the north-east is because when we talk about the environmental destruction of the Tibetan plateau, the rivers originating from Tibet are in the hands of China now,” she said.
“China is famous for damming all the rivers. It’s not only for hydro-power that they’re damming [rivers] but it’s like getting hydro-hegemony over all the downstream states and countries,” she added.
Teykhang contended the “tap is in the hand of China”. She added, “Whenever they wish a drought, they can just stop the tap. Whenever they wish, they can just let loose the water and spoil all the [crops]. So, many of the parliamentarians from the north-east had so much of concern over the depletion of flow of water in the Brahmaputra or Tsangpo from the Tibet region.”
Among the MPs from the northeast who were present at the meeting were shipping minister Sarbananda Sonowal, minister of state for petroleum Rameswar Teli, and minister of state for external affairs Rajkumar Ranjan Singh.
Teykhang contended that India could respond to China’s calls to follow the “One China” policy by seeking the resolution of the Tibetan issue.
“Why can’t India [tell China] that we want a secure and peaceful border. Therefore you need to resolve the Tibet issue through a middle way approach because we are not asking for complete independence, we are asking for genuine autonomy whereby we are ready to co-exist with China provided they give us space to keep our identity and the space to practice our religion and culture,” she said.
Besides meeting MPs, the Tibetan delegation went to the headquarters of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Samajwadi Party, the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), National People’s Party (NPP), Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi State), and the Congress. They also met former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, and leaders of the Biju Janata Dal and Aam Aadmi Party.
The Tibetan delegation informed interlocutors about the critical situation inside Tibet, describing it as “grim and alarming” and highlighting the 157 cases of self-immolation by Tibetans since 2009. They asked the MPs and political leaders to support the resumption of dialogue between China and envoys of the Dalai Lama, and to join world leaders in urging the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change to launch a scientific study to understand the impact of climate change on the Tibetan plateau.
Teykhang said the delegation also met Taiwan’s representative in India, Baushuan Ger, to discuss ways to strengthen the friendship between the Taiwanese and Tibetan people that began with the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taipei in 2007. The delegation also plans to visit the embassies of US, France and Switzerland, which has sizeable Tibetan populations.
She dismissed the Chinese foreign minister’s recent visit to India as “a photo op”, and said: “It was just to let the world know that they’re engaging with India, whereas he was dictating to the Indian government that we will talk about the borders later on, but let business be done.”
She was equally dismissive about the Chinese embassy’s opposition to meetings between Indian politicians and members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile. “We are used to China bullying the members of parliament of a sovereign state. So, we don’t care a bit about what they talk because this has nothing to do with the Chinese,” she said.