Independence or autonomy: Tibetan dilemma continues

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Dharamsala : The dilemma amongst the Tibetan leadership in exile over which way to go – seek independence or genuine autonomy from China – continues even as they ponder over the future of Tibet at a special six-day meeting being held in this Himachal Pradesh town.

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Despite the chilly conditions prevailing here, the Nov 17-22 meeting has generated plenty of heat among the Tibetan exiles, especially over the issue of independence versus autonomy.

“We have had hot discussions on the issue with participants putting up respective views. The discussions have been quite open and frank and we have exchanged good views. The meeting has reflected true democratic traditions among the exiled Tibetans,” Dawa Tsering, member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile and supporter of the Dalai Lama’s middle-path approach, told IANS.

The special meeting, for which over 580 Tibetan leaders from all over the world have assembled here for the first time, has been called by the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, called the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (ATPD), at the instance of the Dalai Lama.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner has been advocating his peaceful middle-path approach – seeking genuine autonomy for Tibet under China – to resolve the Tibetan issue. But the younger generation of Tibetan leaders and youth are restive, and want to settle for nothing less than complete independence.

The meeting, forced by growing demands from exiled Tibetans to have a re-look at the middle-path approach, comes just days after the eighth round of talks between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and China failed.

The failure of the talks has brought more support for the pro-independence group in the ongoing meeting as Tibetan leaders feel that there is no use in engaging China through talks as China remains “uncompromising”.

“China is not sincere about the talks on Tibet. Independence of Tibet is the only lasting solution of the problem. We have had hectic discussions during the meeting,” ATPD member and pro-independence supporter Karma Yeshi told IANS.

Expressing his personal views on the Tibetan freedom issue in one of the group meetings here, speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile Karma Cheophel said: “Rangzen (independence) is the ultimate goal. We cannot associate with China or live under it. Tibetans cannot forget the torture of the last 60 years.”

The discussions over the future of the Tibetan struggle among the 15 groups of all the participants ended Thursday evening. The resolutions moved by each of the groups, along with their suggestions, will be put up before the general house of the special meeting Friday.

Discussions to be held Friday will lead to the final resolution to be put up by the meeting. This resolution will then be sent to the Dalai Lama to have a final word.

The Dalai Lama and over 100,000 Tibetans have been living in exile in India since 1959, when the spiritual leader fled from Tibet’s capital Lhasa.