The Gulf Between Tibet and Its Exiles

In the Far Eastern Economic Review, Tibet scholar Tsering Shakya counters arguments made in recent articles that the recent unrest in Tibetan areas was instigated by groups funded by the U.S. government, and discusses the gaps between Tibetans in Tibet and those living abroad:

The arguments made by Mr. Engdahl and repeated by Mr. Ching are just insinuations; the only linkage is that established in their minds. Behind their thinking, and that of the Chinese authorities (who claim that all unrest in Tibet has been instigated by outsiders ranging from the CIA to the Dalai Lama), is a larger set of presumptions that exile Tibetan groups are involved in political activities within Tibet.

This presupposes that there is a more or less free flow of information between India and Tibet. This, however, is true in only a limited way. To fully establish any kind of link between either the exile groups, events inside Tibet or Western interests, one needs to have some understanding of the culture and social milieu in which these groups operate. Also, there has to be some understanding of the nature and composition of Tibetans in India and abroad.

The refugees in India have developed an ideology and forged a nationalistic sentiment such that they have come to see themselves as defenders of Tibet and the Tibetan people. On some occasions this has verged on a view where they see themselves as the “true” representatives of the Tibetans and view the Tibetans inside Tibet as merely passive, oppressed victims. This has often led to a patronizing attitude towards the Tibetans in Tibet. As a result, the cultural and social gap between the Tibetans inside and those outside Tibet is huge.

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