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Tibet Independence Flames Burn Agonisingly Bright

Paper No. 5682                                       Dated 07-Apr-2014

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Tibet independence flames continue to burn agonisingly bright with the unending stream of searing self-immolations in Tibet protesting the continued Chinese occupation of Tibet and demanding restoration of a “Free Tibet” and return of The Dalai Lama from exile in India.

Agonisingly, the flames that engulf Tibetans self-immolating in Tibet seem to be crying out to all those who globally profess as being champions of liberty and human rights and in a way are also lighting up the atrophied consciences of the United States, Europe and major Asian countries for not vociferously taking up the cause of Tibetan independence when on the other hand they strut around espousing lesser causes elsewhere around the world.

Historically with documentary evidence available, Tibet has been a distinct and a unique independent nation-state with its own currency, passports and an independent national flag. The latter figured in a National Geographic magazine issue on flags of global independent nations as far back as 1916. Tibet also had its own National Anthem. All of these national identity trappings of Tibet as an independent nation continued until Chinese Communist military occupation of Tibet in early 1950.

The United States, the West and major Asian countries wrongly acknowledged that Tibet was a part of China, disregarding all documentary and historically evidence available. Shamefully, geopolitical compulsions dictated political expedient policy postures, rather than political uprightness and convictions.

Notably and curiously, Tibet’s status as an independent nation got a much needed boost in the arm from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In end March 2014 during a visit of the Chinese President to Germany, during the exchange of gifts, the German Chancellor presented her guest with a 1735 map printed in Germany which depicted in the map of ‘China Proper’, that Tibet, Sinkiang, Manchuria and Mongolia as not part of China. China reacted by putting a morphed map on the domestic networks of the original presented showing that these regions were indeed parts of China. China is still figuring out German intentions in presenting such a map to the visiting Chinese President highlighting that Tibet was never a part of China.

Tibet lost out in being internationally recognised as a sovereign state and being embedded in global consciousness as such due to a combination of two factors. The first was its remote location from the scene of global happenings. The second and more significant factor was the interplay of geopolitical factors involving the major Great Powers in deferring first to China’s Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai Sheik and later Communist China.

Even today when the United States as the predominant global power and which shouts from rooftops highlighting democracy, human rights violations and human rights atrocities and resorts to military interventions on humanitarian grounds, it becomes tongue-tied in face of China’s ethnic and cultural genocide in Tibet. Tibet should be a blot on American conscience and on India too.

The Indian Government too by now should have officially recognised the Tibet Government-in-exile as the sovereign Government of Free Tibet and given Tibet that recognition.

Tibet in terms of an independent and ‘Free Tibet’, free from the Communist Chinese military occupation, today stands at crucial cross-roads torn between the predicament of continued adherence to the Middle Way Approach espoused by The Dalai Lama and the strident calls by Tibet’s Generation Next for a full-fledged war of independence against Chinese military occupation of Tibet.

Thirty years of steadfast adherence to the Middle Way Approach has not brought any positive responses from China. It continues to be as intransigent as ever. On the contrary China has increased the intensity of atrocities and brutal suppression of Tibetan calls for independence within Tibet since 2008. That only goes to prove that China is rigid and uncompromising in its obsession in continuing with its military occupation of Tibet,

It is encouraged in its adamancy by China’s perceptions that the United States despite its rhetoric on Tibet will remain paralysed in inaction on the Tibetan independence issue.  Presumably, the United States too believes like China that with the passing away of the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tibet independence issue would fade away into history and that the United States would be spared from confronting China on the Tibetan independence issue.

On the other side of the coin are the prospects of the Tibetan Independence Movement acquiring the contours of an armed resistance against Chinese military occupation of Tibet, with asymmetric Tibetan warfare against China in Tibet? Those who argue that such a course is not possible without American support may be flawed in their appreciation of the situation.

It would be fallacious to assume that Tibetans are timid and overly peaceful. This finds echo in a statement of the Tibetan editor-in-chief of the Duke East Asia Nexus who asserts that: “It is a Western narrative that all Tibetans are non-violent, that all Tibetans support the Middle Way.”

The above misperception presumably arises from the fact that the continuing self-immolations in Tibet in its fight for independence are under-reported in the West and the American narcisstic obsession with China and their fixation that China should not displeased by the West on any account, dominates American policy approaches on Tibet.

This is evident from the recent assertion by US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlyn Hayden asserting in relation to President Obama’s meeting with The Dalai Lama which said: The United States supports the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ approach of neither assimilation nor independence for Tibetans in China.”

The United States categorically ruling out independence for Tibet is shocking when viewed against the backdrop of America supporting Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle Eat or seeking displacement of the Syrian regime on lesser falsified charges. The United States seems to be officially in a state of sever disconnect with the majority sentiment of Tibetans that are opposed to the Middle Way Approach and seek full Tibetan independence.

Even China is not ready to accept the Middle Way Approach. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on February 20 2014 in relation to the above stated: “His (Dalai lama’s) so called Middle Way proposal should be studied. Actually, the Middle Way proposal is political platform for the realisation of Tibetan independence in a step by step manner.”

Contextually therefore, the chances of a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan struggle for independence are very dim. The only alternative that then emerges is the likelihood of Free Tibet being achieved by a Tibetan war of independence.

Chinese peripheries are in ferment today with growing calls for independence and which are likely to intensify as evident in Xinjiang. Terrorism originating from these disturbed areas has already penetrated Mainland China with disturbing prospects.

 If China persists in its military brutalisation and suppression, the Western peripheries of China-Occupied regions may end up in emerging as China’s Afghanistan.

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