इंद्रप्रस्थ विश्व संवाद केन्द्र

This is last piece of the three-part essay. 

It is difficult for anyone to predict how much religious virtues or political mileage Dharamsala can hope, if at all, from Dalai Lama’s visit to China. But we have a long history of Tibet-China relations to believe that Tibet or Dalai Lama have never been a match to Beijing’s skills in interpreting or showcasing any positive step from Dalai Lama as an endorsement or  confirmation of the communist leaders’ actions and claims on Tibet. Most glaring example was the Dalai Lama’s visit to China in 1954 which Beijing leaders presented to the world as an endorsement of Chinese rule over Tibet.

It therefore leads one to believe that the proposed visit of Dalai Lama to China in present situation is bound to fill all that moral, legal, political and strategic void which China has been miserably missing about her colonial control over Tibet, especially since 1959 flight of Dalai Lama into exile.

Three precious constituencies

As a die hard team of optimists and well meaning people, Dharamsala might be hopeful of driving a lot of world focus on Tibet through such a visit. It may also have many reasons to believe that a visit of Dalai Lama to China can open new doors for negotiations. Or, it will help Dalai Lama to understand the real intentions of Chinese leaders on Tibet. Dharamsala must also be quite genuine about its own intentions and expectations. But with centuries long unhappy experience of Tibetan leadership in dealing with China, it will be too naive to believe that they can beat China in extracting advantages out of any given situation.

Therefore sending Dalai Lama on a China visit in a situation when odds are heavily stacked against Tibet vis-a-vis China, there is a serious risk of confusing,  demoralizing and finally losing all the three constituencies on whose support Dalai Lama has attained his popularity and Tibet has survived as an issue all these years in the world conscience. These constituencies are:

*  Tibetan masses, living under the Chinese rule or in exile, who have successfully braved and maintained their resolve against Chinese colonialism while enduring all difficulties and dangers;

*  Tibet support groups across the world who relentlessly and successfully gave an international dimension to the cause of Tibet and;

*  The international community which includes parliaments, political leaders, civic society and action groups whose deep faith in democratic values and human rights of Tibetans gave Dalai Lama and Tibet the support and strength on which they stand today.

The Seven Risks

At a time when Dharamsala and Tibet appear to be in a highly vulnerable position vis-a-vis Beijing, it will be imperative for Dalai Lama as well as his advisors, to seriously measure the pros and cons of his proposed visit to China. To put these risks in specific terms:

One, the travel of a ‘refugee’ Dalai Lama to the same country from where he escaped 56 years ago on the ground that the conditions created by the colonial occupants of his country were too difficult and inhuman to live there, will amount to no less that issuing a ‘no objection certificate’  to whatever China has been doing in Tibet all these years. As an obvious corollary to this he is bound to lose his political, legal and moral identity and rights as a ‘refugee’ on his return to exile from such a visit.

Two, his visit will send this message to those millions of brave Tibetans who have endured all the atrocities and injustice at the hands of their colonial masters, that since their supreme leader has no problem with China, they too must stop bickering against Chinese occupation. Self immolation by more than 130 Tibetans in recent years (135 on record on so far) to express their frustration against the Chinese colonial rule over Tibet only proves that unlike the dominant group of Tibetans in Dharamsala, who appear to be pushing Dalai Lama to give  up or patch up, the Tibetan people inside Tibet have not given up their national resolve or courage to face the Chinese regime. But the Dalai Lama visiting China and hugging Beijing leaders, is bound to deflate all the moral steam, patriotic zeal and national resolve out of Tibetan masses.

Three, Tibet support movement across the world has already lost most of its energy and enthusiasm because of Dharamsala’s near-fanatic diktats against anti-China postures in recent years. It will be near impossible for these support groups to hold on to their cadres and support base when the world watches their hero hugging and shaking hands with the same ‘villains’ whom these groups have been opposing all these years. Once this support base and organizational structure crumbles or melts away, it will take another life time for Dalai Lama or his establishment to resuscitate international Tibet support movement back to life.

Four, enormous world media coverage of the visit of Dalai Lama to mainland China on the invitation and hosting of Tibet’s colonial masters will simply leave this clear and unambiguous signal to the world that “all problems between the Dalai Lama and China have been sorted out”.  This means that all those individuals, organizations and action groups across the world who loved, admired and supported Dalai Lama simply because he was the best symbol of fight against the tyranny of colonialism, communism and anti-democratic powers will be made to believe that he no more needs their support.

Five, Beijing is bound to present this visit of Dalai Lama as the endorsement and certification of China’s position on Tibet from none other than the supreme leader of Tibet and Tibetans. Hence it will lay its claim over all the respect, credibility and sheen that it had lost due to its sad record as a colonialist occupier of Tibet.

Six, if the Dalai Lama chooses China as the destination of his Buddhist pilgrimage, the communist masters of Beijing are bound to lap it up as the final ‘ISO’ certification of China as world’s ‘Buddhist Super Power’ by the supreme spiritual leader of Buddhism. It will be interesting to see how Dalai Lama and his exile establishment who have spent their life time in painting colonial rulers of their country as ‘anti religion’, ‘anti Buddhism’ and ‘destroyers of Dharma’ will manage this contradiction?

Seven, last but surely not the least, is the dreadful scenario of this happy looking marriage between Beijing and the Dalai Lama going to the rocks any day in future. Having dealt with China all their life, who else understands better than the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans  the real levels of honesty and loyalty that Beijing leaders hold towards their own commitments or agreements with others? On such a fateful day Tibetans would be shocked to discover that there is no one standing behind them as all cheering and clapping crowds have already melted away and the Tibet support movement has closed its shop long ago. In the eventuality of Beijing masters of Tibet turning back to their old games in Tibet, it is anybody’s guess how much enthusiasm or commitment the world would be left with to save the Dalai Lama and his countrymen once again?

It is therefore high time for everyone who stands by the Tibetan people to realize and accept that Dharamsala has already lost a significant share of its political and strategic ground on the Tibetan front to Beijing and stands on an utterly weak and vulnerable ground vis-a-vis its (all) mighty opponent.  Even his most optimistic sympathizers and supporters would agree that the Dalai Lama has nothing significant to gain from a Chinese ‘pilgrimage’ except some media grand-standing or, may be, some spiritual virtues as a practicing Buddhist.  But who else other than the Dalai Lama himself would understand that such ‘gains’ are too petty and personal for a man who is already the darling of world media and is so deeply revered as the embodiment of Avalokiteshwara — the God of Compassion?

Great hopes in Dalai Lama

Many critics of Dharamsala have expressed fears that a dominant section among the Tibetan exile leadership appears desperate on cobbling up a deal with China on whatever terms. But even a junior student of history or diplomacy can testify with full confidence that history, especially the history of nations and peoples, keeps changing and that the world has consistently witnessed the mightiest of regimes melting away into oblivion without a whimper.

Innumerable examples of countries like India and Israel would help Tibetan leadership to understand that the greatest strength of a nation does not lie in opting for most comfortable solutions in a crisis, but in enduring difficult times and wait to be available on the day when history  holds your rightful share to be returned to you. It will require a deep rethinking and detachment on the part of the Dalai Lama to distinguish between the historic responsibilities which his great institution has bestowed upon him and the current desperation that is guiding a dominant section among his advisors.

On the part of such group of desperate advisors too, they are advised not lose their faith in Dalai Lama’s political, social and spiritual wisdom. They should understand that by transferring his political powers to a democratically elected exile ‘government’ of Tibet he has already empowered and freed the Tibetan society to take Tibetan struggle far beyond the physical limits of his own life span or even relying on the institution of Dalai Lama in their struggle. This means that Dalai Lama has already realized the capacity of Tibetan society to take ahead its national struggle for many generations to come irrespective of whether next Dalai Lama is leading them or not.

As a professed follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama is already aware of the enormous powers that Gandhian way of thinking and action holds. Therefore, a far better option for him would be to adopt some of the techniques which Gandhi successfully employed in dealing with the British colonial Raj that was far more powerful that today’s China. For example, by sitting on a hunger strike for the cause of those 135 Tibetan who gave the supreme sacrifice for the freedom and human rights of their colonized countrymen, Dalai Lama can shake the world conscience far deeper than by visiting Wutai Shan and getting photographed by the international media as he shakes hands of the occupiers of his nation.


(This is last and final piece of the three-part essay)

(Writer Vijay Kranti is a Senior Journalist with special interests in Tibet and China)