Very few chances of agreeing with China: Tibetan leader

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

McLeodganj (Himachal Pradesh) : Just days ahead of the seventh round of talks between the exiled Tibetan leadership and China, a top Tibetan leader here says there is very little chance of an agreement with China on core issues.

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“Unke saath ekmat hona bahut mushkil hai. (It will be very difficult to agree with them),” Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in the Indian town of Dharamsala, told IANS here in an exclusive interview.

“We have serious differences with China over two core issues – history (of Tibet) and the population. We are ready to acknowledge that Tibet is now part of China. But we will not say that it was historically part of China. That is what China wants the Dalai Lama to say. We will not do it as it will legitimise their occupation of Tibet,” Rinpoche said.

The exiled Tibetan leadership also disputes China’s division of Tibetan territory into 11 parts. “We want all these parts to be united and that region to be given full autonomy,” he added.

The next round of talks between the envoys of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Chinese leaders are to be held in the last week of June after a gap of one year.

The talks are crucial as these are being held after the March-April Tibetan uprising against China and ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

“We have nothing new to raise in the forthcoming round of talks. The issues will remain the same, plus we will raise the recent violence inside Tibet,” Rinpoche said.

The Dalai Lama’s envoys, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, accompanied by two other Tibetan officials, will go to China for the seventh round of talks.

“China needs an enemy and they have chosen His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) for the moment. That is their style of functioning. They have been demonising him in recent months and blaming him for the turmoil inside Tibet. It makes no difference to us. They cannot keep fooling the world,” Rinpoche said in one of the hardest criticisms of the Chinese policy on Tibet.

Rinpoche said the problem concerning Tibet was not with the Chinese ideology over the matter or the Chinese people but “only with some top hardcore Chinese leaders”. He refused to identify those leaders.

Following international pressure in the run-up to the Olympics, China held talks with the Dalai Lama’s envoys last month in Beijing but the talks ended abruptly.

China has been blaming the “Dalai clique” for being behind the violence in Tibet in March-April this year. They have been calling the Dalai Lama a ‘a wolf in the robes of a monk’.

But Rinpoche said he was still hopeful that the talks between both sides would lead somewhere, as there was international pressure on China.

“There is no chance that we will not talk. Tibetans are suffering inside Tibet and we must engage China in some talks for their cause,” he said.

Rinpoche said he did not believe that the United Front (Works department) of China’s Communist Party, with whom the Tibetan envoys are talking, is an inconsequential entity. “This is their party’s official department that deals with minorities. So we have no problem with that,” he added.

The Dalai Lama, who left Tibet in 1959 to flee Chinese occupation, heads the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala.