Reading too much into Trump's Tibetan policy

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Donald Trumps’ last blow to China, while he is leaving the White House soon is his signing the legislation (Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020). The law supports Tibetan’s rights to choose the 14th Dalai Lama’s successor. But as anticipated, it is being vehemently criticised by China, branding all issues related to Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as their internal matters. Not surprisingly, with this the long-standing demand of choosing the 15th Dalai Lama by the Tibetan’s scattered worldwide or those who live in Tibet has been though endorsed by the president Trump, but the question is will this legislation deter China that already seems not too alarmed or careful about Washington’s global diktats (even not about South China Sea issue). The crude and bitter reality remains that, the whole world has not been able to stop China from its inflicting massive atrocities against the helpless Uighurs and using Tibetan land for whatever it likes like a testing lab for forced labour, torture camps, and indoctrination, what they beautifully call re-education now. The fact is that China doesn’t come under any international pressure even if Trump or whole world labels Corona as the Chinese Virus). China promptly reacted by reiterating that US should stop meddling in China’s internal matters. While it had already started to manipulate the Dalai Lama institution (i.e., Gedhun Choekyi- then just 6 was the chosen 11th Panchen Lamain 1995 but was abducted along with his family and still remains missing) and the process to choose their own pro-China Dalai Lama was ongoing, the question is, will such a strong and open support to Tibetan Dalai Lama institution help Tibetan cause or will it address the prolonged Tibetan refugee, identity, and livelihood crises? Will it make any difference in the lives of those Tibetans who live in Tibet under Chinese diktats or solve any of the problems that Tibetan refugees are beset with in alien lands? Also, will it check the China’s demographic engineering which is repeatedly destroying Tibet’s ethnic makeup in TAR (Tibetan autonomous region) and alongside, save Tibet’s rich resources and environment from just being the dragon’s dumping ground of plastic and other harmful waste. I seriously doubt! Though the recent legislation talks of environmental concern even includes sanctioning Chinese officials (actually some visa restrictions), if they try to appoint next Dalai Lama. What will United States do if China continues its evil designs in Tibetan territory, and will China give any credence to such sanctions is also doubtful; since China now sees itself as the only competitor (even EU recognises the rise of China) to USA’s global hegemony and has earlier proved that it can bypass any US sanctions (bought oil from Iran and even got away with it and still trades secretly with North Korea and bypasses US decrees always)? The worry is, will it be feasible to contain today’s China that is over ambitious, muscular, and militarily crazy for its expansionist strategy to gain supremacy in Asia and the world.

Also, the question is that are Tibetan’s and their organizations reading too much into this law, since the change of guard is about to happen in USA and will the new regime in US follow Trump’s plans religiously? Though it can be safely argued that USA’s policy on Tibet seems stronger than ever before, but Biden’s foreign policy too is in offing and will see some changes regarding its Asian vision for sure. Should this development be also seen as Trump’s deliberate attempt to make the road for US-China bilateral relations more thorny for the upcoming Biden regime? How will such rough postures influence the upcoming Biden government and the bilateral relations and will a new China-US offensive discourse emerge out of it, remains to be seen. Also, is the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) based in Dharamsala, India overestimating the legislation by describing it as a victory for the Tibetan freedom struggle? Should Tibetologists and analysts take it as CTA’s hoping against hope? Has the new law that somehow focuses on the religious freedom of Tibetans have anything to do with the Tibet’s freedom struggle or has USA even urged its support for Tibet’s Liberation from Chinese yoke practically beyond some words of sympathy and refugee aid? Even if Tibetan’s choose their 15th Dalai Lama of their own, without Chinese interference, will it anyway undermine China’s physical and actual iron fist control of the Tibetan territory and people as the dragon has virtually eaten and exploited it all? Should CTA change its goal posts and persuade the world about the seriousness of the Tibet issue rather than rejoicing over a simple law enacted far away from China and celebrated by those who are far away in exile?  Has Dalai Lama’s middle path approach worked so far while China converted whole of the TAR into a security orbit. Is it what Lobsang Sangay-the CTA president calls a momentous landmark for the Tibetan people?Therefore, should Tibetan community across religious and ethnic and class diversities (i.e.,Tibetan Muslims and others well settled and permanent residents in other countries) ask for more from the global powers? Lastly, should India join the fray, and can it afford any excessive posturing towards Tibetans, especially at this juncture and support the legislation and make its own new stand on Tibet without caring for the 2003 bilateral document (supposedly, that agrees TAR as Chinese territory) owing to Galwan face off, and China’s consistent non-commitment on border peace, or let US face the dragon on her own. As already the Chinese embassy has asked Indian media (indirectly the government) to stay away from Tibet issue, is a sort of warning that it might damage the bilateral ties (which stand diminished by Chinese incursions). Has the time come to start reassessing our ties with China and change the view towards looking at the dragon that never sticks to a rule-based relations, and has started deciding unilaterally on all matters in Asia? Thus, there are endless questions but without answers.

Dr. Adfer Shah, a Delhi based Sociologist and George Greenia Research Fellow works in JMI and has been researching on Tibetan-Kashmiris and Tibetan Refugee crisis since 2007. He is the author of ‘Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive.ISBN:8183249191).