‘The World is Scared of this Unknown Entity Called China that Has Come Up. But We Know Them Very Well’

Indian Express interviews Lobsang Sangay, who was sworn in as Prime Minister of Tibet’s Government-in-Exile, succeeding the Dalai Lama who maintains his role as spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhists:

C Raja Mohan: At a time when China is getting stronger, your talks with them have broken down. China is putting pressure on most governments in the world to stop their interaction with His Holiness. Has negotiating with them become more difficult as China grows stronger? How do you see the prospect of engaging the Chinese?

: Number one: for India and Indian people, China is new. As Tibetans, we don’t look at China and the Chinese people that way. We are genetically disposed to dealing with China as we have been next to each other for the last 2,000 years. They have invaded us, we have invaded them, sometimes we have chased them out, and sometimes we have settled issues amicably, sometimes violently. We have seen ups and downs. When China invaded Tibet, the 13th Dalai Lama fled to India, to Kalimpong. We fought hard and were successful in making the return of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama to Tibet possible. So we have done it before and we are confident that we will do it again.

Second is Buddhist philosophy. We believe our identity is based on Buddhist philosophy, which is 2,000-plus years old while Communism is just 100 years old. We know we will live through it and we will return to Tibet and restore freedom. At the moment, there is this tunnel vision in seeing China as a great military power and a growing economic power. At the moment, they call me names and call me illegal. But I am the democratically elected leader, hence legal. It is tough at the moment but in the long run, we will prevail. […]

Amitabh Sinha: There’s one viewpoint that in recent years, the Dalai Lama was becoming more of a problem in initiating a dialogue with China than a solution. Do you think that will change with your appointment?

Lobsang Sangay: When you say Dalai Lama is more of a problem, it’s a narrative and you have to look at the source of the narrative, which is clearly Beijing. Why is Dalai Lama the source of the problem? He has advocated peace, non-violence, moderation, autonomy within China. So what is the problem? The problem is Beijing’s hardline attitude. I will continue the same middle-way policy—I ran my election on that and people voted for me supporting that policy. I am familiar with Chinese propaganda and how the system works. It’s all scripted—Dalai Lama was the problem and hence they were not talking to us. Now if they want to change the script and say Lobsang Sangay is the solution, then I will be happy to facilitate a dialogue because I have said this over and over again: we are willing to negotiate with the Chinese government anytime, anywhere. I have a 16-year track record to prove it. When I didn’t have to, I have talked to hundreds and hundreds of Chinese scholars at Harvard University. We are sincere, we believe in dialogue.

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