Dialogue diplomacy
Interview with Lhasang Tsering, June 2005

issue : AT n°1 - 2006
author : Lhasang Tsering
file : Diplomacy
other language: French

Q : How do you understand the "renewed dialogue" with China and the "positive signs" from this one since 2002? What is your point of view about the three delegations that visited China and Tibet ?

L.T : The first thing we must understand about the so-called "dialogue diplomacy" between Beijing and Dharamshala is that we only have "talks about talks" but no meaningful dialogue. This is because China has essentially no need to talk to the Tibetans. In that case one may ask why then are the Chinese inviting and receiving "Envoys of the Dalai-Lama"? The simple truth here is that this is an important part of China's strategy to play for time.

As for the talk about a "renewed dialogue" due to the visit to Beijing of the Special Envoys of the Dalai-Lama in 2002; in my view this was a cleaver ploy by the Chinese to offset the very important resolution of the European Parliament on Tibet which stated that member countries of the EU would seriously consider recognizing the Tibetan Government-in-Exile if, within three years, China does not enter into meaningful negotiations with the Dalai-Lama to resolve the future status of Tibet.

From the very beginning I felt that the Tibetan delegations visiting China and Tibet was a mistake. The stark reality facing the Tibetan people today is that China's population transfer policy has set a time limit. The fact is that time is running out for Tibet; China is playing for time and the delegations visiting China and talking about "positive signs" is playing into Chinese hands.

Q : What strategy do you advocate to help negociations opening ? Are these ones necessary and according to which objectives ? In your view, is there an alternative based on another objectives and another strategy ?

L.T : I cannot understand the idea of "a strategy to achieve negotiations". As I see it, negotiation is only a means to achieve an end and not an end in itself. Which is to say that negotiations can only be a part of a wider strategy and merely holding negotiations; without a clear goal, can at best only be a waste of time.

I also believe that meaningful negotiations can only take place when there is a shared need on both sides to come to a negotiated settlement. Regarding China's occupation of Tibet, I cannot see any reason why China should surrender even a small part of its total control over Tibet and for that reason I cannot see why China should hold any meaningful negotiations with Tibetan refugees. What is going on now is not negotiations - it is only talking about talks. And this is happening simply because China is killing not just two - but three birds with one stone.

Firstly, China has effectively neutralized the Tibetan struggle by keeping the Tibetan leadership hoping and waiting; which, in turn has thrown the Tibetan people into confusion.

By "talking about talks" and periodically inviting the "Special Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai-Lama" to Beijing; China has also effectively kept at bay the possibility of any international involvement on the issue of Tibet.  

The result of keeping the Tibetan leadership hoping and waiting and, therefore, ruling out any

international involvement on the issue of Tibet is that China has gained the time that it needs to send in more and more and more Chinese settlers into Tibet. The railway will reach Lhasa in 2007 - some say even earlier. Soon there will be so many Chinese in Tibet it will become meaningless to talk about a Tibet for Tibetans.

I believe it is not possible to work out a unified strategy to overcome any problem without first having a clear understanding and acceptance of the nature of the problem.

As such, I believe it bears repeating that; before we can come up with any meaningful strategy; it is a pre-condition that the Tibetan people - and most of all the Tibetan leadership - must first understand and accept the fact that China will never voluntarily and willingly relinquish their control over Tibet. We must formulate and implement a plan of action that will hurt China enough - if not to throw them out of Tibet then, at least to force them to come to the negotiating table.

Q : Does the Tibetan Government-in-Exile have the will and the means to review its current policy ? Is that to be hoped ?

L.T : I am not in a position to say whether or not the Tibetan Government-in-Exile has the will to review its current policy. But it certainly has the means to do so since it enjoys the faith of the overwhelming majority of the Tibetan people and I can think of no other factor holding back the Tibetan Government from taking its own decisions. More to the point; in my view it is not a question of will - I believe the Tibetan Government has the duty to respond to the right and the desire of the Tibetan people for freedom and independence.

Perhaps I should add here that the desire of the people inside Tibet should be more than clear to the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in view of the fact that all the protests and demonstrations inside Tibet; in which many, many Tibetans have been killed and many more have been imprisoned; have all been for freedom and not autonomy.

However, as things stand now, I can see no signs that the Tibetan Government-in-Exile is considering any departure from the Middle Way Policy; and soon it will be too late.

Remarks collected by Mathieu Vernerey
Diplomatie, July-August 2005