Is Beijing prepared to resume discussions with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as time runs out?

The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual head of Tibet, has said that Chinese authorities are attempting to get in touch with him, but analysts suggested it may be difficult to resume negotiations.
The Dalai Lama, who turned 88 earlier this month, said last week that Chinese authorities have attempted to get in touch with him, “officially or unofficially”.

He added he was “always open to talk” but gave no additional explanation.
The 14th Dalai Lama told reporters in Dharamsala, India, where he previously established the Tibetan government-in-exile (TGIE), that Chinese authorities want to approach him to resolve Tibetan issues because they have realized how powerful the Tibetan people’s spirits are. In 2011, he gave up his position as the body’s political leader.

He said, “I am also ready,” stating that Tibetans had made up their minds to be a part of the People’s Republic of China and were not seeking independence.

An previous confirmation from Norzin Dolma, a minister with the TGIE, that recent “backchannel communications” had taken place “unofficially and informally” with Beijing.

Resuming dialogue while the Dalai Lama is still alive, according to her, is crucial.

According to a report by Kyodo News, Norzin said during a visit to Japan that “[the current Dalai Lama] has the moral authority, he has the legitimacy, and whatever solution or resolution that could occur while he is alive, people give that stamp of approval.”
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has been living in exile for 64 years, ever since a failed revolt against Chinese rule over Tibet in 1959. Beijing views his TGIE as a secessionist organization.

Nine rounds of negotiations between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government took place from 2002 to 2010, with little progress being made. Since then, there hasn’t been an official meeting.
According to Barry Sautman, a specialist in ethnic politics in China at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, both parties have reasons to reestablish links as the Dalai Lama aged and is less able to traverse the globe.

The Dalai Lama has traditionally been seen as the personification of the Tibet problem in the West and in India, but has recently lost some of its prominence on Western agendas, he said. “From the standpoint of the TGIE, their highest card internationally has been the Dalai Lama,” he said.

Regarding Beijing, Sautman said that the timing of the outreach may be related to the fact that other global crises, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the human rights situation in Xinjiang, have drawn focus away from Tibet in the West.

He claimed that as the Dalai Lama’s image fades in Western society, “the Chinese government knows that what the US can and will do for the Tibetan émigrés is very limited and will likely decrease.”

He said that the TGIE’s assertion that Tibet is an independent nation under occupation is in conflict with the Dalai Lama’s most recent remarks that Tibet is a part of China and does not want independence.

“The backchannel contacts may already have produced [this] result,” he added.
Beijing is likely to demand more concessions and make fewer offers in return if it believes it can negotiate from a position of strength, according to Robert Barnett, founder of the Modern Tibetan Studies department at Columbia University. As a consequence, he said that recent attempts to establish contact did not necessarily show that Beijing was interested in beginning discussions at this time, but rather that it was looking to raise its requirements for doing so.

The Tibetan side would have a very tough time as a result.

Barnett projected that the Dalai Lama’s succession, or reincarnation, would be of urgent concern. He said that Beijing would “almost certainly” attempt to persuade the Dalai Lama to acknowledge the Chinese government’s final say on the subject. As the Panchen Lama, the second-ranking Tibetan spiritual leader behind the Dalai Lama, acceptance of the present Beijing choice as such was expected to be another demand.

A dispute that has never been settled arose in 1995 when each side selected a prospective kid to become the 11th Panchen Lama.
As a legacy left over from China’s emperors, the Chinese government asserts that it has the authority to approve the nominations of all prominent Tibetan Buddhist authorities, including the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama and his supporters have vehemently refuted this claim.

The Dalai Lama has said that Tibetans should choose his successor’s future position and that the incarnation may even be discovered in India. China, however, has maintained that the reincarnation must adhere to the rigid procedures and background of the faith.

Beijing must take action before he passes away if it hopes to get those, according to Barnett.

Since that is how difficult negotiators operate, he said, “it’s always been likely that the Chinese side would push for a deal when it perceives that the Dalai Lama is at his weakest.”

News Desk

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