Has anything of substance really been lost by the development that the Obama Administration has declined to meet the Dalai Lama in November? Many Tibetans naturally feel extremely disappointed that their political leader will not be meeting the President on this occasion. Yet that sense of disillusionment is partly based upon an understandable yet mistaken hope that an audience with the American President can exert meaningful leverage upon communist China, while others derive some comfort from Chinese outrage at such meetings.
However the objective of such meetings, from the perspective of the Tibetan Goverment in Exile, has less to do with angering China and more with maintaining and increasing international support for its efforts to convince the communist Chinese leadership of its sincerity in seeking autonomy under communist Chinese rule. In that context those who consider that policy as signalling the final death of Tibetan identity and nationhood cannot shed too many tears that Obama has chosen not to meet with the Tibetan leader. Why regret one lost opportunity which would only encourage the exiled Tibetan Government in its insane plans for the surrender of Tibet as a distinct people and nation.
Make no mistake that is precisely the agenda which would have dominated exchanges between the US Administration and the Tibetan leader, as revealed by the remarks made by Ms.Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, who lead a US Government delegation to Dharamsala on September 13/14 . Ms. Jarrett personally conveyed the commitment of President Obama to:
“..support the Tibetan people in protecting their distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural heritage and securing respect for their human rights and civil liberties” as well as the US President’s commendation for the Dalai Lama’s consistency in seeking genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China through his middle way approach.” (emphasis added)
Such a solution is of course entirely within the geo-political and economic interests of the United States and other supposedly supportive nations who welcome the Dalai Lama to their gilded apartments-of-state and issue moving platitudes on the plight of Tibet. Yet in advocating negotiations with communist China , which possibly may be thought a genuine outcome by some, the United States can appear to be taking action on Tibet, yet in reality in promoting autonomy, carefully avoids the thorny issue of Tibetan national identity in particular self-determination and independence. Thus a convenient political detour is made around what remain acute Chinese sensitivites.
Since autonomy operates within the borders of a sovereign state, and is granted and defined by a dominant power it is by definition an internal matter, an argument often employed by communist China in response to condemnation of the situation inside Tibet. International law with its somewhat loaded dice (supplied by the ideological and commercial interests of major nations following the establishment of the United Nations) ensures that any autonomous rights, which may exist, are subservient to the political and territorial sovereignty of a state. Thus political power remains entirely within the hands of the state, and apart from international condemnation, any suppression or abuses which may operate, remain a domestic issue, beyond genuine external influence.
Any objective therefore of protecting Tibetan culture, which one must assume the Obama Administration is sincerely committed to, will not be guaranteed by autonomy, genuine or otherwise, communist China would maintain its stranglehold over the Tibetan people, its military remaining in Tibet, the region’s natural resources ruthlessly exploited, and Tibetans, as a minority Chinese nationality, subject to a range oppressive laws and human rights violations, including a coercive population program that forces women to undergo sterilization.
Such is the prospect offered by autonomy, the final demise of Tibetan identity, no more international support (as there would not exist an issue of Tibet as such), Tibetans no longer recognised as a distinct people under international law and therefore denied any rights which springs from that definition, including the right to self-determination and ultimately independence. What was once described as “the last great ancient civilisation to survive in tact into the twentieth century” would be finally assimilated, a fate which the Exiled Tibetan Government foolishly believes can be avoided by accepting autonomy as defined and dictated by communist China, which has only one goal, the eradication of a Tibetan national identity and any sense of seperateness. How could anyone supportive of the Tibetan people welcome any process which would contribute towards what communist China values as a ‘Final Solution’ for Tibet? Though somewhat peripheral, meetings between the US Adminstration the Dalai Lama, which advocate autonomy, are paradoxically promoting that objective.