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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 101

Dalai Lama’s America visit

By Chandramohan - Syndicate Features

It is like the theatre of the absurd now in play for years. Beijing unleashes a ritualistic fury whenever a Western leader decides to greet the Dalai Lama in person. Everyone knows full well that the Chinese protests are only loud barks, not meant to bite. The self-appointed custodian of ‘Western values’ of democracy and freedom make a public exhibition of their ‘concern’ for the lost cause, Tibet’s freedom, and its spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, knowing full well that they cannot move the Chinese to hear Tibet’s cries for freedom.

The rusty script was followed strictly recently when the Dalai Lama arrived in the US. The Chinese were livid at seeing the Dalai Lama being honoured with the highest American civilian award, the Congressional Gold medal, which was instituted way back in 1776. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Winston Churchill were among its recipients. The Chinese were more angry when President George W. Bush decided to become the first serving US head of state to meet the spiritual leader of the Tibetans

The US ambassador in Beijing was summoned for a dressing down centred on the theme that Washington had committed a grossly egregious diplomatic act and interfered in China’s internal affairs by extending the various courtesies to Dalai Lama. Just ahead of the ceremony, the Chinese government had ‘warned’ the US against George Bush appearing with the Dalai Lama at the Congressional ceremony where the award was handed over to the Nobel laureate by Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

Did the Chinese seriously believe that all their criticism and ‘warning’ would have led to cancellation of the ceremony or prevented the President Bush from personally greeting the Dalai Lama? Doubtful. They cannot be unconscious of present day global reality.

President Bush, for a change, was quite honest and said in so many words that he expected no ‘grave’ consequences on bilateral ties with Beijing. Bush averred that he had informed in advance his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, about his plan to meet the Dalai Lama when the latter came to the US. And offered a homily: Chinese leadership must talk to the Dalai Lama. On his part, the Tibetan leader also no longer thinks of total ‘independence’ for his homeland. Perhaps, he realises that his demand for a special kind of ‘autonomy’ for Tibet looks a distant dream in the face dwindling international pressure on China.

Obviously, the Chinese were compelled to make some loud noises because the Dalai Lama’s visit to the US had coincided with the opening of the five-yearly conference of the Chinese Community Party. The Chinese comrades may not be afflicted with the kind of reflexive anti-US paranoia that rules the minds of Indian comrades, but they would not like to appear timid when the US makes an unfriendly gesture, certainly not when the communist elite of China, the next superpower, had gathered in the capital.

So much for the Chinese ‘warning’ and ‘protests’! But the US played its part no differently. While there are many influential Indians who hold New Delhi squarely responsible for Tibet’s continued occupation by the Chinese, it is doubtful if the Tibetans could ever hope to keep alive their movement for ‘freedom’ from the Chinese rule without active US help.

During the years when New Delhi was supposedly compromising its position on Tibet—through the 1950s and 1960s—the Tibetans were also receiving help from the CIA in cash and in various material forms, backed by diplomatic efforts. Much of the CIA aid stopped after the clandestine but ‘historic’ visit of the then US President, Richard Nixon, to China in 1972. The two sworn enemies decided to forget the past and become pals to take on a common enemy, the Soviet Union. The intense American support to Tibet’s ‘freedom’ has been diluted since the early 1970s, though overt gestures have been retained.

Frankly, the US interest in Tibet looks more symbolic than substantive. In recent years financial ties and business and commercial interests have become the matters of prime interest between the two erstwhile enemies—one the original bastion of capitalism and the other cloaking its capitalism behind the burqa of communism. The US and China may trade angry words now and then but their economic ties continue to be on the up. This when several US commentators have expressed the fear that US-China trade relation has become almost a one-way street with Chinese enjoying unprecedented surpluses that can have an adverse impact on the American economy.

So, the question is: Is Washington in a mood to reshape its ties with Beijing that will demonstrate its anger with China in a more meaningful way. The answer is a resounding no. Because, after all, the US has also been indifferent to Chinese nuclear non-proliferation acts in South Asia even while publicly pledging its support to the goal of non-proliferation. The US also distinguishes between friendly and unfriendly dictators, reserving its bile only for the latter variety though maintaining in the same breath that all forms of dictatorships are bad.

It probably does not really hurt the Chinese when the US raises questions about human rights abuses in their country though the US has used human rights abuses as an effective tool to punish many countries. Yes, the Americans are vocal in their concern for the survival of the Buddhist traditions of Tibet under Chinese rule but they have forgotten about the Panchen Lama. He is the second most holy figure for Tibetans after the Dalai Lama. Do the Americans know where Panchen Lama lives and how? The US is also content to remain a silent spectator to the hectic Chinese efforts to affect a population transfer that will reduce the Tibetans into minority in their homeland.

A medal of honour to Dalai Lama does not really signal an American assurance of an effective support for the Tibetan ‘freedom’ movement. The histrionics over the Dalai Lama visit to the US was a poor plot undoubtedly.

- Syndicate Features -

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