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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

The Dalai Lama and Indian PMs

August 27, 2010

Claude Arpi Blog
August 22, 2010

The Chinese are upset again. Since they have
become a quasi-superpower, they are constantly
unhappy over one thing or another. This time they
are objecting because the Dalai Lama made a
courtesy call to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on
August 11. The Tibetan leader wanted to thank
India for the hospitality offered to his people for the past five decades.

Tempa Tsering, the Dalai Lama's representative in
Delhi explained: "[The Dalai Lama] has been
living in India for the past 50 years. There was
nothing special about the meeting. He thanked the
Prime Minister for [the] good care India has
taken of him during this period." Though it was
the first encounter with Dr. Manmohan Singh since
the ruling United Progressive Alliance returned
to power, the meeting was part of the Dalai
Lama's regular interaction with Indian leaders, Tsering said.

China is often infuriated. In November last year,
Beijing was incensed by the Dalai Lama’s visit to
Arunachal Pradesh (they claim that the Indian
State belongs to them); a month earlier when the
Prime Minister campaigned in the North-Eastern
State, he was advised by Beijing not to step into
‘Southern Tibet’, the name they use for Arunachal Pradesh.

Successive Indian Prime Ministers have always
made it clear that the Dalai Lama was free to
visit any part of the country and meet whoever he wanted.

For the past 56 years, the Tibetan leader has
regularly met Indian Prime Ministers, but it is
only recently that the Chinese have begun protesting so noisily.

The Dalai Lama met India’s first PM Jawaharlal
Nehru for the first time in Beijing in October
1954. He was introduced by Zhou Enlai, the
Chinese Premier. As soon as the Dalai Lama
settled down in India in 1959, Nehru visited him
in Mussorie; they had a 4-hour meeting.

Lal Bahadur Shastri met the Tibetan leader before
leaving for Tashkent. He even informed the Dalai
Lama that the Government of India had decided to
recognize the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. He
told him that it would be done after he returned
from the Soviet Union. Sadly (for India and Tibet), he never came back.

Indira Gandhi also met the Dalai Lama, as did
Rajiv. In the 1980’s, the Dalai Lama wrote
several letters to Rajiv Gandhi, particularly to
inform him of his decision to propose to China a
Five-Point Peace Plan in September 1987.

Usually these meetings are just courtesy calls
and remain low key. The media gets to know after
the event. However B. Raman, the former RAW
official and counter-terrorism expert recalls
that in 1993 Narasimha Rao took the initiative to
inform Li Peng, the Chinese Premier beforehand
that he was to meet the Dalai Lama. The Chinese
immediately objected to the meeting. Narasimha
Rao nevertheless went ahead and met the Tibetan
leader. Thereafter, Indian Prime Ministers never
informed Beijing. It is logical, as Beijing does
not ask India’s permission to receive guests in
the Great Hall of People. All over the world, it
is the prerogative of the PM of an independent
State to receive whoever he wants.

A meeting with Atal Bihari Vajpayee was rather
strange. The Prime Minister was at his best, he
remained silent for most of the encounter. I
believe the Dalai Lama did not know about this
old habit of the Prime Minister and was rather
surprised. Vajpayee was possibly musing over the
beautiful speeches he made on Tibet when he was a
younger parliamentarian. Who knows!

This time, Beijing was rightly told by the Indian
Foreign Minister that the Dalai Lama is an
'honoured' guest of India and the Prime Minister has every right to meet him.

In the meantime, the leaders in Beijing live in
fear and take more and more repressive measures
to 'control' the Tibetans. The purpose of the
recent protest is probably to divert the
attention from the happenings in Tibet.

For example two influential Tibetans, though they
had close relations with the Communist regime have recently been arrested.

One is the well-known environmentalist and
philanthropist Karma Samdup, while the other is
Dorjee Tashi a Tibetan tycoon who ran a chain of
hotels and a real estate business. Both have
received awards from the Chinese government in the past.

Dorjee Tashi, known as ‘Yak Tashi’, was an
incredibly successful Tibetan businessman until
June 26 2010, when the Lhasa Municipality
Intermediate People’s Court convicted him for
"illegal business operations" in a three-day secret trial.

After the recent mudslides in Tibet, the Chinese
Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi stated
that "China recorded [mostly in Tibet] more than
26,000 geological disasters in the first seven
months of this year, nearly 10 times the number in the same period last year.”

In Drugchu county alone 1,434 were killed and 331
are still missing. Though Beijing attributes the
disasters to extreme weather conditions, it is
clear that human (read Chinese) activities such
as the construction of hundreds hydropower
plants, large scale deforestation and wild mining
have been the major factors triggering these ‘geological’ disasters.

This causes tremendous resentment amongst the local Tibetan population.

Take what could appear as a detail: the mudslide
occurred in Drugchu county of Kanlho prefecture
of Amdo province of Tibet. After the Chinese
invasion, the Tibetan names have been changed to
Zhouqu County of Gannan Autonomous Tibetan Prefecture of Gansu Province.

Recently, the Chinese leadership seems to have
again entered a spiral of repression. On 18/19
August 2010, the dreaded Public Security Ministry
(PSB) organized a meeting of the PSBs of all
ethnic Tibetan areas to assess "the results and
experiences of upholding public security,
struggle against the current separatist movement,
and identified current challenges facing
stability in Tibetan areas." They reviewed the tightening of security measures.

Two days earlier, the United Front Work
Department, the Party Department dealing with
minorities had a meeting at Shigatse also to
"tighten religious institutions in Tibetan areas." A dreadful program.

The main problem is that the Chinese leadership
does not understand that the Dalai Lama could be
their best ally if they were serious about
wanting to sort out the Tibetan issue in a
peaceful manner. Mao Zedong had understood this
and when the Dalai Lama was in Beijing in
1954-55, the Great Helmsman used to visit him in
his Guest House to 'convince' him to work with
China. It worked to a certain extent. Former
Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang had also
understood this in the early 1980's, but he was
unfortunately sidelined by the hardliners.

For Beijing, the best way to 'control' the
Tibetans would be to make friend with the Dalai Lama and take him on board.

But the present leadership does not have the
foresight to meet the Dalai Lama or even to send
their Ambassador to Dharamsala for 'talks'. I am
sure that the Dalai Lama would not even mind to
drop in at the Chinese Embassy in Delhi and have
tea with the Ambassador, if invited.

It is high time the Chinese leaders stop being
‘upset’. If they are really interested in China’s
stability, they should just start a genuine dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
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