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Symbolic Gesture


US President Joe Biden is set to sign a ‘Resolve Tibet Act’ which calls on China to resume talks with Tibetan leaders that were suspended in 2010. It is directed at persuading China to resolve the disputes between the two parties so that the Tibetan people can retain their ‘historical, cultural, linguistic and religious identity’. As part of this outreach, a bipartisan US Congressional delegation led by Representative Michael McCaul and including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has met the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala. The message sought to be communicated was, ‘Tibet is not alone’.

The freedom of the Tibetan people is almost a forgotten cause. The problem began with India, the most significant power in the region when it became independent, playing its cards terribly wrong from the beginning regarding China. It conceded not just diplomatic space and sundry advantages such as a permanent seat in the UN Security Council; it also miscalculated militarily by, first, allowing China to takeover Tibet, and then its own strategically important territory. The latest take on this can be had from former Diplomat Dilip Sinha’s book, ‘Imperial Games in Tibet: The Struggle for Statehood and Sovereignty’.

China is always sensitive to mentions of such places as Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Although it is technically ruled by the Communist Party, it is fixated with its ancient imperial identity, requiring all other countries to kowtow to it. So, it did not take long for Mao to revert from a “people’s leader” to an autocrat. The nature of the ‘revolution’ was transformed to an autocracy. Leaders since then have centralised power to the present level under Xi Jinping. Earlier, there was an inner ring of power within the party, now there is only one absolute leader. The mistakes made by western capitalists by transferring their manufacturing base to that country made things worse by providing China the means for wealth generation.

The ‘unification’ of China would not at all be difficult if it ceased to be the property of the Communist Party and transformed into a democracy. None of the ‘nations’ would have any problem in re-integrating. But where is the incentive for the Chinese leadership to do that? Soft, self-serving initiatives like the ‘Resolve Tibet Act’ are little more than symbolism. It is only when the Chinese people tire of the oppressive nature of the regime that changes can take place. Material wealth has value till a certain point, beyond that the human spirit aspires for freedom.