The ‘New’ Tibetan Struggle

IITM CSC Article #16
28 March 2012

The ‘New’ Tibetan Struggle

The upcoming BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 28-29) has become a new platform for the Tibetan community to showcase their discontent with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), only this time the ‘peaceful’ Tibetans are using ‘desperate’ measures. As per media reports, a protestor identified as Jampa Yeshi set himself on fire, on 26 March 2012, as demonstration against the Chinese rule in Tibet. The Chinese President Hu Jintao will be visiting New Delhi to attend this summit. The Indian security forces should be definitely worried about the outcome and are working towards preventing any major incident.

This is not the first time that the Tibetan protestors have attempted to gain international attention. The most prominent was during the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Prior to the Olympics, there were major uprisings in Tibet as the Tibetans wanted to attract the attention of the international media present in China. The PRC clamped down hard in order to control the uprising and had greatly restricted the outflow of any news from Tibet. There has been an increase in the degree of control, which the PRC exercised following these uprisings.

The general policy followed by the PRC in order to gain support in Tibet has been to increase investment in the region, in hope that this will lead to peace and stability. Even after decades of economic development in Tibet there has been no change within the Tibetan populace towards the PRC. The recent increase in the number of instances of self-immolations only proves that there is a renewed urgency within the Tibetan community to attain the desired goal. This may be due to the fact that the people know and understand that after the demise of the Dalai Lama the Tibetan movement may become a lost cause. The level of international acceptance and respect, which the Dalai Lama enjoys, helps in keeping the movement alive and as of now there is no other leader, who enjoys the same position and acceptance, both within the Tibetan community and globally.

Meanwhile, with the increase in the level of economic prosperity, in China, there has been a constant decrease in international support for the Tibetan cause. With increase in the level of economic integration, which China hold with the world, in addition to it a strong global player (both economically and militarily) it is becoming difficult for the international community to voice strong support of Tibetans as they do not want to antagonize the PRC. On the other hand Beijing is using its international presence to best of its advantage.

The general approach, which the international community has adopted, is one of passive support. The Tibetan people have been left ‘alone’ when it comes to fighting against the PRC. The problems, which exist within Tibet, are well known to the world, especially that of increasing “hanization”. The PRC has been increasing the number of Han nationals in the Tibetan region. This demographic change is affecting the Tibetans, in addition with lack of jobs and political representation. These developments have made the Tibetan people feel alienated within the PRC and thus it is no surprise that they have to resort to desperate measures. What needs to be seen is whether the international community recognizes this cause and extends support to the community. Is the world community in a situation to help the Tibetan people fight for their rights? In the past it has been seen that the Chinese government has undertaken measures to negotiate with the Dalai Lama when the United States had intervened. However, this does not appear to be probable outcome in recent developments.

What should the Indian government do? During the Olympics New Delhi took extra measures to make sure that there is no major disturbance to the Olympic relay. However, in the current situation and keeping in mind that we have a large number of Tibetans living in India in addition to the presence of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamshala the position of New Delhi is difficult. Should New Delhi express support or try and look in a different direction? Both options seem to be tough for New Delhi. An increase in such instances will greatly hamper the domestic security and stability of the country while on the other hand New Delhi would not to be very keen to get involved in internal matters of the PRC.



Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Friday, October 16, 2015 - 13:45
Article PDF: