Faced with China, the Tibetans between support and expectation towards India

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

Following the clashes in the Himalayas, many Tibetan activists hoped for a gesture from India towards their cause… which did not come. Despite everything, the Tibetan community displays broad solidarity with the country that hosts the Dalai Lama.

Monday, July 6, many were waiting. On the occasion of the 85th birthday of the Dalai Lama, some dreamed that India would recognize the existence of the Tibet, others that a reward be given to their spiritual leader, others finally, of a simple note for his birthday. It must be said that India's recent clashes with China in the Himalayas gave a breath of hope. Thursday, July 2, five Tibetan NGOs had expressed their solidarity with India in Dharamsala while calling on it to take action "It is high time that India recognizes Tibet as an independent country and an occupied nation", had asked Gonpo Dhundup, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Beyond the Tibetan community, several politicians called for a gesture. "We must pay homage to the Dalai Lama with the Bharat Ratna (Indian legion of honor, editor's note)", had declared shortly before Pankaj Goyal, the secretary general of Bharat Tibbat Sahyog Manch, close to the BJP party (1) in power in India. "He deserves it for his service to humanity, his compassion, his courage and his unwavering faith in democracy and fundamental freedoms, all the values ​​that our Republic defends", had tweeted for his part Nirupama Rao, former ambassador of the India in China.


It has not happened. For the Dalai Lama's birthday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not even crack a tweet, despite having called him the previous year. Understanding this silence means going back to the events that have recently shaken relations between India and China. On the night of Monday June 15, contingents of Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed in the Galwan Valley, along a border they have been fighting over in the heights of the Himalayas for six decades. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed there. Faced with what is perceived as further proof of Beijing's expansionist desires, India has shown the muscles: sending additional troops to the Himalayas, banning 59 popular Chinese applications.

But behind the martial appearances, it is diplomacy that is favored by New Delhi, in discussion with China to pacify the Himalayan border. “Historically, geopolitically, culturally, the Tibet is at the center of tension. Xi-Jinping himself has said that China's security and stability depend on Tibet's security and stability, Lobsang Sangay, chairman of the Tibetan government in exile, told Buddhist News. It is also an environmental issue, Tibet being the water tower of Asia, the Indian government should in fact be one of the main axes of its policy. To find an agreement with China on the Roof of the World, India has however chosen to dodge the issue.

border games

Nothing surprising according to Tenzin Tsundue, famous Tibetan activist and poet, for whom India has always played a double game with Tibet. “During the Chinese invasions of the 50s, India welcomed many Tibetan refugees like the Dalai Lama. But on the other hand, it always felt militarily inferior and gave in to Chinese territorial demands. And the activist cites the recognition of Tibet as part of China during the peaceful coexistence agreements of 1954, the military defeat of 1962 leaving the Aksai Chin area de facto in the hands of the neighbor... It is with Tibet that India made a border agreement in 1914, not with China. It is therefore paradoxical to deny the existence of this country! “Judge Tenzin Tsundue.

Since Dharamsala, the man also regrets that India has too often silenced the Tibetan protest in the hope of capturing Chinese capital. “I was sent to preventive prison fourteen times, each time a Chinese leader came to visit the country, that's a record! Tenzin Tsundue is now calling on India to get out of this wait-and-see attitude. “After the recent clashes, the time is no longer for naivety. We must think of relations with China in the long term rather than begging for investments. India shares 3480 km with Tibet. Recognizing it as a country would put China in difficulty as an occupying power and secure the border. Namdol Lhagyari, president of the Gu-Chu-Sum association for Tibetan political prisoners and member of parliament in exile, also judges that India is not sending a strong enough message. “That Tibet is a nation in its own right is a fact and India is a testimony to it. But due to bilateral relations with China, this is not officially recognized. »

Memories of Tibet

Many Tibetans, however, do not expect so much, starting with the head of their government in exile. “We admire India's non-violent approach to diplomacy. It is thanks to the hospitality of India that we have been able to revive and preserve our cultural identity. », says Lobsang Sangay. “Tibetans around the world stand with the Indian people in the face of Chinese imperialism. This gives us a feeling of deja vu since there is sixty years, the People's Republic of China entered Tibet and we lost our freedom. This recognition towards India and this solidarity with its people is shared by Namdol Lhagyari. “Citizenship or not, I am Tibetan by blood and that will never change. But I cultivate a natural connection and love for India, having grown up here. »

“During the Chinese invasions of the 50s, India welcomed many Tibetan refugees like the Dalai Lama. But on the other hand, it always felt militarily inferior and gave in to Chinese territorial demands. »Tenzin Tsundue

Whatever the passports and routes, India and Tibetans feel inseparably linked. "We talk about the Chinese border, but deep in their hearts, all Indians know that we are talking about Tibet », Judge Tenzin Tsundue. “The people of Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh have no memory of the Chinese. They were built on religious and commercial exchanges with Tibet. Especially since India is the birthplace of Buddhism, which plays with borders. "The ancient knowledge of great Indian scholars such as the Shantarakshita has been preserved in Tibet," says Lobsang Sangay. His Holiness the Dalai Lama then pledged to rekindle interest in the Nalanda tradition in his host country, India. Culturally, India will always be the spiritual home of the Buddhist nations of Asia. »

peaceful action

In the absence of a political gesture from the Indian government, the Tibetan community remains mobilized to make its voice heard in the face of the Chinese threat. She's not the only one facing it. “Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Uyghurs and the Mongols are also in the sights of Beijing”, recalls Tenzin Tsundue. “We have already demonstrated together in Paris, London or New York”. For Namdol Lhagyari, it is too easy to expect everything from India. “Many developed nations left Tibet to China for self-interest. As long as the road is, the activist says she is ready. “Young Tibetans have always followed the Buddhist message of nonviolent protest, resilience and perseverance. »

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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