Tibetan exiles still ready for talks with China

February 18th, 2009 - 10:41 am ICT by IANS  

Dharamsala, Feb 18 (IANS) The Tibetan government-in-exile has always been ready for restarting the dialogue process with China on the future of Tibet provided Beijing is sincere and ready to discuss the issue, a Tibetan official said here Tuesday.

“We (the government-in-exile) are ready to restart the negotiations with the Chinese… the door to talks is always open, provided they (Chinese) are sincere in their dealings and about the future of Tibet,” Sonam N. Dagpo, secretary of international affairs of the government-in-exile, told IANS in an interview.

“We want to settle the issue mutually within the (Chinese) constitution, through negotiations,” said Dagpo, who attended the crucial meeting of the task force of the exiles that concluded in New Delhi over the weekend. The meeting reviewed the future course of action of the exiles.

The two sides - China and the Dalai Lama envoys - have held eight rounds of talks since 2002 to try to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Tibetan issue, with no major breakthrough.

After the last round of negotiations - the eighth - in November 2008, China insisted it would not compromise on the status of the Himalayan region.

“The issue of Tibet concerns the future of six million Tibetans there and not just exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama,” Dagpo said, adding that China was willing to talk to the Dalai Lama about his future but not that of Tibet. “Still no decision has been taken regarding the next visit of the Dalai Lama’s envoys to China.”

Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the government-in-exile who chaired the task force meeting, said: “We are strict on our charter of demands submitted through a memorandum during the last round of talks.”

“If the Chinese want to restart the negotiations, then the demands of the exiles for meaningful autonomy and protection for the Himalayan region’s unique Buddhist culture would be in the forefront,” he said.

Tsewang Rigzin, head of the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress, said: “We are not against the middle-way approach of the Dalai Lama, but in reality China is not sincere… we have to be realistic.”

Political observers noted that the situation in Tibet these days is quite tense as the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising approaches.

“The situation is Tibet is very, very tense. China has even banned the visit of foreign tourists to areas dominated by Tibetan populations ahead of the politically sensitive 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising,” said Dagpo.

March 10 marks the 50th anniversary of a failed rebellion in Tibet against Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama along with his supporters was forced to flee into exile in India after the uprising was crushed.

In March 2008, protests to mark the anniversary in Lhasa turned violent and spread to other areas of western China.

Tibet’s government-in-exile, which is based in this hill station of northern India, said 219 people were killed and 1,294 injured in the subsequent Chinese crackdown last year.

Nearly six million Tibetans live in the Tibet region of China while over 150,000 live in other countries, most of them in India.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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