Exclusive: Penpa Tsering, President, Tibetan Government-in-Exile, tells ABP LIVE that China’s strategy of ‘salami slicing’ Indian territory has made New Delhi take a stronger stance against Beijing.
India, as well as other countries, will have to align its interests with that of Tibet and only then will both sides be able to “move forward together” in terms of greater recognition to their movement and struggle, even as China has unleashed a “genocide” of Tibetans there in all aspects, according to Penpa Tsering, President, Tibetan Government-in-Exile. To understand the real intentions of Beijing and how the country is being governed under the Xi Jinping administration, he said, countries, especially European nations, would need to look at Tibet as “partners” and not as “victims” of Chinese Communism.
Speaking exclusively to ABP LIVE during his recent visit to New Delhi to attend an event on Panchen Lama, the ‘Sikyong’ of the Dharamshala-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said: “It is because of China’s belligerence, salami slicing of Indian territory, and incursions that India has also taken a stronger stand that unless there is disengagement from all sectors there will be no normalisation of relations. So what has China gained from all this? China is getting paranoid about security issues and their belligerence and bellicosity towards India, towards Taiwan and South China Sea, and why do they keep all these hotspots burning? Because if there is a threat or when there is a threat to the survival of the Chinese Communist Party, they will attack in one of these places.”
On the issue of the ongoing India-China military standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that began in April 2020, Tsering said such actions by Beijing is pushing India more towards the West even though New Delhi has always believed in being “overcautious when it comes to relations with China.”
“India has always been overcautious and India is not an offensive party. They have always been defensive. They have always been cautious when it comes to relations with China. With Tibet being controlled or occupied by China, you have 3600 kms of the world’s most non-porous border because there is a huge trust deficit,” he said.
He added: “So, how do you build this trust? That (trust) can be built only through human-to-human relations, cultural-to-cultural relations which is not happening. And what China is doing on the border is not helping anybody. We are glad that India has taken a stronger position and the one thing we know about China is that if you stand up for your position and values, then only China will respect you. If you keep kowtowing then treat you like a donkey, they will keep riding you.”
‘Tibet Has Played Crucial Geo-strategic Role’
Tsering, who took charge as the ‘Sikyong’ in 2021 believes that Tibet has played a crucial geo-strategic role by being a political buffer state between India and China. He also said if there has to be a negotiated settlement on the issue of Tibet, then it will be with Beijing. However, for now, he wants countries to align their interests with that of Tibet to understand the significance of their movement.
“We realise the fact that no country will leave aside their national interest and take up Tibet’s national interest. So when the interest of India, or for that matter any other country aligns with Tibet’s interest then there is more space to move forward together. But till such time every interest varies,” Tsering said.
He highlighted the fact that there is “more recognition” of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration presently in India and within the international community at large.
“Now we hear more voices in India about aligning its interests with that of Tibet’s and that there should be more recognition for HH or the CTA that is based here (in India) … We are very thankful to the Indian government that we exist because of the Indian government even though their support is more for humanitarian (purposes). We also understand that because of the proximity of the border India has to be more cautious than other Western countries who are more vocal about Tibet. So we have an open relationship with the Indian government,” he said.
The President-in-Exile also said that only four Tibetans had been able to escape to India since 2020, and the number had been plummeting steadily due to increased surveillance by the Chinese. However, in 2023, more than 50 Tibetans were able to cross over to India due to the opening up of the Nepal-Tibet border from May 1 of this year.
‘Historically Tibet Has Been Independent; Treat Us As Partners’
Tsering, 60, who was born in the Bylakuppe Tibetan Refugee Camp in Karnataka, believes that the world needs to start treating Tibetans as “partners” if it is seeking to understand the real intentions of an increasingly belligerent China.
Due to China’s massive propaganda machinery, he said, Beijing has been able to induce other countries into saying that Tibet is part of the PRC.
“They know that they don’t have any legitimacy of their rule in Tibet and they are trying to seek the legitimacy from the international community and countries also keep parroting the same statement… We believe that there has to be a recognition of the historical status of Tibet as an independent state by every government (in the world),” he said.
Tsering had visited the US in October to discuss furthering the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020, which is an amended version of the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002. The US is the only country that has a law on Tibet. On November 29, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) approved the Tibet bill by voting on it unanimously.
“There will be another amendment to the Act whereby the US Congressional findings say that China’s claim over Tibet and it being part of PRC since antiquity is false and inaccurate,” he said, adding that the CTA has been working on making countries recognise that Tibet has been an independent state historically and that the Sino-Tibet issue has been an unresolved conflict.
The CTA is now also advocating the world to see Tibetans fighting for their autonomy as “partners” rather than as “victims of Chinese Communism” and that there has to be a “deeper understanding of China’s global intentions”.
“Many countries do not understand the real motivation of China. Nothing comes for free from China. There has to be a more holistic understanding of what China is doing … So we tell them we are not coming here to seek support for our cause. It is very important for you to also understand China for your own people,” he said.
He added that China wants to spread authoritarianism in the world.
Referring to the West, particularly Europe’s engagement with China, Tsering said, “There has to be a concerted effort … We also tell them (the West) that please don’t look at us only as victims of Chinese communism, just to have pity or give some money or say some nice things to keep the Tibetans happy.”
He stressed: “Nobody wants anarchy in China but if you want to bring about positive changes in China you need both the internal and external forces. And we are the internal forces – the Tibetans, the Uighurs, the Mongols, even the Hongkongers today and you can include the Taiwanese also. If you need both internal and external forces then look at us as partners. Because we understand China better than European countries.”
The CTA has now started the ‘Panchen Lama Awareness Initiative’ under which it is making efforts to push China to come out with the truth regarding the 11th Panchen Lama, who was recognised by His Holiness Dalai Lama in 1995 but was later abducted by Beijing and he was never to be seen again.