Ready to talk to China

Interview/ Lobsang Sangay, president, Central Tibetan Administration

INDIA-TIBET/ Lobsang Sangay

President Lobsang Sangay runs the Central Tibetan Administration from Gangchen Kyishong, a 10-minute drive from the Dalai Lama’s office on the winding Temple Road in Dharamshala.

The government in exile has seven departments—religion and culture, home, finance, education, security, information and international relations, and health. Run by Kashags (cabinet ministers), they look after the welfare of 1.5 lakh Tibetan refugees. The CTA has its own judiciary, executive and legislature (parliament in exile) and holds elections every five years.

In an exclusive interview, Lobsang told THE WEEK that the envoys of the Dalai Lama were ready to hold talks with China any time, anywhere. China, however, is putting enormous pressure on Nepal to prevent Tibetans from crossing over. Excerpts:

Are you concerned about the decline in the Tibetan population in India?

The Tibetan population in exile remains the same at around 1.5 lakh, of which around 50,000 are living abroad (outside India). However, there has been a decline in the number of Tibetans coming into exile from Tibet. There were a few thousands coming till 2008; now it is a few hundreds.

Are you satisfied with the Indian government’s help? Do you need any concessions?

No country has done more for Tibetans than India. For that we will always remain grateful to India and its people. The Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy of 2014 is one of many initiatives the Indian government has taken. Just as China considers Tibet one of its core issues, I appeal to the Indian government to include Tibet in its core issues, considering the historical, environmental and geopolitical significance of Tibet.

What is the CTA’s policy towards China?

The CTA’s official policy is the Middle-Way Approach, which aims at resolving the issue of Tibet through dialogue. And through this approach, we are seeking genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people.

Are you open to talks with the Chinese government?

Of course. The envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama are always willing and ready to meet with the Chinese representatives any time and anywhere.

What role do you see for India in bringing Tibet and China together?

India can play a constructive role in resolving the Tibet issue based on the Middle-Way Approach.

How important is the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama for the Tibetan people?

Chenrezig (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Tibet are inseparable. The Dalai Lamas (believed to be manifestations of Chenrezig) and the Tibetan people are inseparable. The Dalai Lamas have united the Tibetans, becoming a powerful symbol.

There are concerns about infighting within the CTA. How do you see politics impacting your administration?

We have a democracy and there will be differences of views. That is all. Since 2007, we have had a 78 per cent increase in voter registration and participation. We are also seeing more electoral participation among the Tibetan diaspora.

Are you the smallest government in exile in the world?

There are several governments in exile, and ours is likely to be the most effective one. We have a literacy rate of 94 per cent, and the CTA has several departments that cater to all-round welfare of the Tibetan community. The CTA has also been advocating for the Tibet issue around the world.

Why is your government called the Central Tibetan Administration and not government in exile?

We have been trying to accommodate the Chinese concerns and changed the name from the Tibetan government-in-exile to CTA. The title of the prime minister of the CTA was changed to ‘president’ or the Sikyong (in 2012).