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WikiLeaks Cablegate: Tibet talks - positive signs, or exercises in futility?
India-related document from the leaked US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.
Reference ID: 10NEWDELHI290
Created: 2010-02-11 15:03
Released: 2010-12-16 21:09
Origin: Embassy New Delhi
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FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9509
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Thursday, 11 February 2010, 15:57
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 000290
EO 12958 DECL: 09/05/2016
TAGS PGOV, KDEM, PREF, PHUM, CH, IN, PINR, PREL
SUBJECT: TIBET: GROWING FRUSTRATION AFTER LATEST ROUND OF
TALKS BETWEEN BEIJING AND THE DALAI LAMA'S ENVOYS
Classified By: MIN/COUNS ZEYA for reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: PolOff visited Dharamsala February 3-7 to meet a cross section of the Tibetan community upon the conclusion of the ninth round of dialogue in Beijing between the Tibetan government-in-exile, known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), and Chinese officials. During meetings with members of CTA's Parliament, the NGO community, journalists and activists, Poloff detected growing Tibetan frustrations over the lack of progress through the dialogue and with the Middle Way approach. Many interlocutors pointed to the widely-anticipated meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama with excitement but also expected few, if any, tangible outcomes. They argued that the international community, particularly the United States and India, needs to engage more on the Tibetan movement to curb rising frustration after over 50 years in exile. END SUMMARY.
TIBET TALKS: POSITIVE SIGNS, OR EXERCISES IN FUTILITY?
2. (SBU) PolOff visited Dharamsala to gauge the Tibetan community's reaction to outcomes from the ninth round of dialogue between the Dalai Lama's special emissaries and the Chinese government, held Jan 26-31 in Beijing. Interlocutors expressed mild hope mixed with intense concern for the future of the Tibetan movement. The emergence of this dialogue in 2002 was taken as a positive sign by NGOs, such as the Tibetan Women,s Association (TWA), which works with the CTA government. Most interlocutors argued that the talks, though producing no substantive change in relations between Chinese and Tibetan officials, convey to those residing in Tibet that ''something is happening.''
3. (SBU) Tibetan envoy Lodi Gyari's February 2 statement pointed out that the Chinese delegation provided a detailed briefing on results of the January 18-20 Fifth Tibet Work Forum, an internal Chinese government-run discussion of China,s Tibet policy. Gyari noted that many of the issues the Forum prioritized (such as the focus on rural livelihood development projects and China,s shift in verbiage from the ''Tibet Autonomous Region'' to the geographically-larger ''greater Tibet'') are also mentioned in the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for All Tibetans, a document submitted by the envoys during the eighth round of the dialogue in 2008 and resubmitted during the latest round.
4. (SBU) Yet prominent members of the CTA, including Speaker of Parliament Penpa Tsering and Minister of the Department of Information and International Relations Kesang Takla, expressed frustration to PolOff with what they termed as the ''arrogant'' display by the Chinese officials who listed the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet as the sole issue on the dialogue's agenda. Tibetan envoys attempted, but were unsuccessful, in pushing substantive discussion on guidelines within Tibet that would precipitate the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet, namely a guarantee of the autonomy of the rights and welfare needs of the Tibetan people, as stated in the Memorandum. Takla argued that China's recent economic boom has negatively impacted the international community's ability to pressure the regime on its human rights record.
5. (SBU) Deputy Speaker of Parliament Gyari Dolma highlighted to PolOff four key human rights issues that CTA would like resolved in Tibet. First, Chinese accusations that the Dalai Lama is engaging in separatism must stop. Dolma contended such accusations cause Tibetans to lose confidence in the Chinese delegation, which ought to bring ''real'' issues to the talk. Second, China must allow Tibetans living in China to freely meet the Dalai Lama, so that he understands their thinking (NOTE: Dolma mentioned that CTA currently has little access to the opinions of those living in Tibet due to Chinese controls on telecommunications and the media censorship; most of their information comes from refugees. END NOTE); China should also allow a delegation from Parliament to visit Tibet with neutral observers (i.e., from the UN, US Embassy in Beijing, the media, or other impartial organizations) and guarantee the safety of those who speak with observers as
NEW DELHI 00000290 002 OF 004
they examine the internal situation and make recommendations for solving the Tibetan issue. Third, China should allow Amnesty International or another credible human rights organization access to the Tibetan-recognized Panchen Lama, who has been missing from the public eye since shortly after being named the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1995. Finally, on the issue of both political prisoners and prisoners in general, China should allow greater transparency of its judicial processes (NOTE: Dolma contends that Tibetans receive no legal representation and have no clear trial dates, making it very difficult to monitor trial outcomes. She noted a recent positive change on this issue stemming from international pressure on China's ''punishment to death'' sentence, stating that now the Chinese government follows clear procedures to officially record trials in the law book, with only the High Court, upon review of the Supreme Court, holding the power to deliver a death sentence, which has reduced the number of executions imposed. END NOTE).
6. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested to PolOff that Tibetans have little hope for the dialogue as it currently exists, stating that talks are ''still at the zero point.'' He suggested two reforms to the dialogue process. First, Tibetans with Mandarin language skills should be included in the delegation along with neutral observers to record the discussion between both sides. Second, the location for talks should alternate within and outside China (NOTE: Even when discussions were held in Geneva, both sides met at the Chinese Embassy. END NOTE). Both XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that ''hope is always there'' amongst the Tibetan exile community. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that as Tibetans become more adept in using the Internet, they must use their own hopes to inspire activism over the Tibetan movement within Tibet and the international community at large.
A MILITANT SHANGRILA?
7. (C) Although Western journalists often ask who the face of the Tibetan movement would be after the Dalai Lama passes away, Tibetans seemed remarkably unconcerned because they see a clear succession path. Speaker Tsering noted to PolOff that the democratically-elected Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) of CTA's Parliament would serve as a figurehead for the movement while officials search for the reincarnated 15th Dalai Lama. CTA,s Charter also provides for the election of a three-person regency to be chosen by members of Parliament in the event of the Dalai Lama's death or inability to take political charge of Parliament. (Note: The Dalai Lama continues to sit in Parliament meetings, despite statements that he is a spiritual, not political, leader of the Tibetans. END NOTE). Tsering contends that, depending on the strength of the three members of the regency, this body could also serve as the voice of the Tibetan movement. The issue that interlocutors disagreed on was the future actions of Tibetans when faced with a movement no longer headed by the Dalai Lama.
8. (SBU) PolOff's discussions with most interlocutors gravitated towards mention of the March 2008 uprising in Tibet, noting, as representatives from TWA did, that it projected a united Tibetan front against Chinese rule to the world. All remarked that conditions inside Tibet have gone from bad to worse in recent years. Deputy Speaker Dolma noted that faith in the Dalai Lama's leadership had led many Tibetans to believe in the Middle Way, yet there is a growing skepticism of this approach. Dolma said that many view the Dalai Lama's and CTA,s demand for autonomy within, and not total independence from, China as too great a compromise.
9. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXX pointed out that protestors in both the 1997 and 2008 uprisings within Tibet were typically young, had never lived in exile, and - most importantly - had never met the Dalai Lama. (NOTE: Interestingly, according to statistics obtained from the Dharamsala Refugee Reception Center, of the 87,096 refugees that were taken in by Center from 1980 to November 2009, over half -
NEW DELHI 00000290 003 OF 004
46,620 people - returned to Tibet after a short pilgrimage in India and audience with the Dalai Lama. END NOTE). XXXXXXXXXXXX affirmed to PolOff that the presence of the Dalai Lama has provided the Tibetan community at large with peace while soothing unrest among the Tibetan youth. TYC is the Tibetan community-in-exile's largest NGO, comprising members whose primary aim is achieving an independent, not merely an autonomous, Tibet. ''Tibetans would rise up if the time comes,'' stated XXXXXXXXXXXX, while noting that the large assemblies of Tibetan youth, outside of audiences with the Dalai Lama, gather together when the TYC discusses independence. Minister Takla also bluntly informed PolOff that if the international community fails to adequately support the Tibetan people in their struggle against China, people residing inside Tibet could become desperate enough to desert the Tibetan movement,s historically non-violent path. Takia said that ''we in the free world would be responsible for the resulting violence'' and all would fail as human rights authorities should Tibetans become militant.
10. (C) In this context, XXXXXXXXXXXX noted approximately 6,000 Tibetans now serve, and over 30,000 Tibetans have been trained, in Establishment 22, a joint Tibetan-Nepali border force within the Indian Army that reportedly emerged in 1962 following a failed Tibetan uprising in China. Membership in Establishment 22 was compulsory for Tibetan students graduating from Tibetan Children,s Village (TCV) schools until the late 1980s, according to XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that Tibetans have never been given an opportunity to fight the Chinese, despite begging for the opportunity; they fought in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 that created Bangladesh and in Operation Meghdoot during the 1999 Indo-Pakistan fighting in Kargil.
THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
11. (C) The widely-anticipated meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama in Washington was a frequent topic of conversation among Dharamsala residents. There appeared to be reasonable consensus that the Dalai Lama is not traveling to the US with a specific agenda for this meeting. Dolma noted that this will be a meeting between fellow Nobel Laureates who believe in non-violence, stating that the ''U.S. government already knows our need,'' and the Dalai Lama understands that there is no need to pressure or embarrass the President into action. Minister Takla, noting President Obama's recent stronger statements about China's trade practices, articulated that there is already international awareness about Tibet - ''everyone knows that Tibetans and the Dalai Lama want genuine autonomy for Tibetans in Tibet'' - but the question now is how do we put this desire into action and pressure China to act on the dialogue? Takla believed that failing to hold a meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama would ''increase China,s arrogance,'' while XXXXXXXXXXXX noted China's pressures on the United States and the Dalai Lama, stressing that the latter faced possible threats of executions of political prisoners in Tibet should the meeting proceed.
12. (SBU) Dolma and Takla both argued that other members of the international community, particularly India, must take a more proactive role on the Tibet issue. Takla stated that Tibet has historically served as a peaceful buffer zone between China and India, noting that India now has to spend large amount of money on defense and be wary of Chinese activities that may adversely affect rivers flowing downstream into India. Dolma commented that India and CTA are natural allies, noting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a clear understanding of the Tibetan problem, and now appreciates the Middle Way approach, versus the opinion intimated through many of the government's earlier statements to ''go back or get independence already.''
COMMENT: FRUSTRATION LIKELY TO GROW ABSENT ANY REAL PROGRESS IN DIALOGUE
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13. (C) Growing frustration among Tibetans, displayed during the March 2008 uprising, is likely to lead to future outbursts so long as the dialogue fails to progress. The Chinese government,s international credibility on human rights will continue to decline as Tibetans gain further access to media tools to disseminate this growing frustration. Their frustration's effect on the Tibetan movement could be exacerbated by the passage of time, as the Dalai Lama's increasing age inevitably slows down his grueling travel schedule and his potential ability to continue to capture the world's attention on his people's plight. END COMMENT. ROEMER
(Reproduced from wikileaks.ch)
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