CTA President Responds to Questions at the ML Sondhi Memorial Lecture.

December 16, 2017

From left: Shri Ram Madhav, General Secretary of BJP, President Dr Lobsang Sangay of the Central Tibetan Administration, Ambassador Lalit Mansingh and V L Sondhi at the 3rd Prof M L SOndhi Memorial Lecture, New Delhi. Photo/Tenzin Jigme/ DIIR

Full Transcript of the Q and A session with CTA President Dr Lobsang Sangay at the 3rd Prof M L Sondhi Memorial Lecture at IIC, New Delhi on 14 December 2017.

Question: In 1950, when people's liberation army occupied Tibet, there has been a lot of discussion in India among intellectuals and various groups that Prime minister Nehru was misled by his own envoy in Beijing with Sardar K M Pannikkar, author of two volumes of Asia and western dominance, for whom Asia vs the west was more important than any intra Asia conflict. And that, apart from the fact, Nehru also had a socialist streak in him and that he had a communist as a defense minister, so all that led to the recognition which was not necessary. The de facto occupation was ok but it need not have to be a de jure recognition. But what Nehru did was he compounded his error of this recognition by keeping the Dalai Lama in India. He should have facilitated the transit of the Dalai Lama from India to a neutral country in Europe or some Buddhist country which doesn't have a border with China. And because of his stay in India, Dalai Lama's mouth was shut. In fact, recently a new book has come out by a Swedish journalist in which he said the Chinese has started preparing for an attack on India in 1959 when the Dalai Lama came here. And this theory of Maxwell that it was a forward policy of Nehru which led to 1962 was totally wrong. The purpose of Mao Zedong attacking India in 1962 was to shut the mouth of Dalai Lama. That's why he quickly withdrew. Now is it totally too late that out of pragmatism, the Dalai Lama says he is not seeking total independence. It is giving a blow to the Tibetan cause because he is receding further, in fact he should be in a place where the Sino Indian relation are too sensitive for him. Anyways my question is, Is India the right place for the Dalai Lama? Whether he should look for a place from where he can speak freely for the freedom of Tibet and human rights in Tibet?

Dr Lobsang Sangay: India is the right place, I think so. What India and the government of India has done for the Tibetan people, no other country has done. We wish more could have been done. As I said, Tibet could be one of the core issues of India as well, like China says it is. That's what we all wish but as a guest here, following Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and following His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advises, we are grateful. As far as the 1962 war is concerned, it's not just 1959, we can go back to 1954 the panchsheel agreement. The panchsheel agreement was essentially a trade agreement between Tibet and British India. It all started in 1914 during the Simla convention on Tibet. With the Simla convention, there were other agreements. One was the Mcmahon line, the border which was demarcated between the Tibetan Prime Minister Lonchen Shatra and Sir Mcmahon, hence it was called the Mcmahon line. And the other one was the trade agreement between British India and Tibet. So that has to be renewed every ten years. 1924, 34, 44 etc. It was renewed between Tibet and India. But in 1954, Pundit Nehru thought it should be renewed with Beijing and the delegation went to Beijing. After several months they came back with Panchsheel. So if you look at the body of the trade, it's all about Tibet and India, all land routes. Only in the preamble, the five points were included. Nehru claimed that Panchsheel was a Sanskrit word, so it's ours. And China said, not so fast. They signed another panchsheel with Burma and the Sanskrit word panchsheel has ownership of China at that time. When the panchsheel was signed, the Indian proposal was to last it for 25 years, China said 5 years. In the end, they agreed to 8 years. So in 1954, panchsheel was signed. After 5 years, Tibet was occupied in 1959. After 8 years, the 1962 war happened. So one can say the 1962 war was planned in 1954 when the panchsheel agreement was signed. So the very foundation for peaceful coexistence was based on deception. They intended to occupy Tibet and declare war on India.

Question: Doklam is a landmark where we didn't blink. It holds the key for and incidentally for the last 50 years of bulletless border management between India and China. In 1967 September October, when India retaliated to China upping the ante, they lost about 400 Chinese PLA soldiers, a convoy of vehicles and a whole lot of bunkers. I am sure it was a message that we sent which have prevented them from pulling the trigger because we have thousands of incursions, transgressions, all solved by dialogue, grappling, wrestling but eventually solved by dialogue. Thank You.

Dr Lobsang Sangay: Again Doklam also happened because of the occupation of Tibet. During the 1930s and 50s, Chinese leaders including Mao Zedong have said that Tibet is the palm that they must occupy andonce the palm is occupied, they must extend to the five fingers that is Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan and Nepal. So as ia said, whether you transform China or China will transform you. China is coming. They have already penetrated Nepal, and they want to penetrate all the other five fingers and Doklam is just the test. It not just puts pressure on Bhutan, it touches Sikkim and the whole nepali belt touching Nepal. So they are cutting the five fingers. There again, Prof Sondhi was right. Had we stopped at the palm, the five fingers would not have been included. The palm was allowed, so they are coming for the fingers.

Question: Apparently Mr Rinpoche was sent about ten or fifteen days ago to China. He made some statements a few days ago reiterating that they are not seeking independence etc, etc. And there is also a thinking that, apparently, Xi Jinping might be a little more flexible to the idea of Tibet. (audio not audible)

Are you getting any signals from the Chinese government given the fact that you spent all your time here saying how deceptive they are? They obviously have a strategy in mind. Is this a strategy or deception? What would be the kind of signals that you are getting? What would be your calculation? Do you think that there can be any forward movement or real movement in reestablishing the dialogue and what would be the conditions under which His Holiness would go there and how long etc, etc. Just a little clarity on this would be helpful because it appears as if, from the western discourse especially, that he is very keen to go back.

Dr Lobsang Sangay: Tibetans are always very hopeful, you know. Of course Chinese use deception, that's a fact. We lost our country because of deception. And its also a fact.

We always say that Xi Jinping in his second term could be more liberal, more open-minded and he will have the wisdom and the will, to solve the issue of Tibet. At the same time, we also said the same thing when Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao were in their second terms. Now it's too early to say what would Xi Jinping do in his second term. The only unique thing about Xi Jinping is that his father Xi Zhongxun was very close to the late Panchen Lama and he was very familiar with the issue of Tibet. If you read the obituary for Panchen lama written by Xi Jinping's father, he clearly said that Xi Zhongxun, the father, was the last person to see when Panchen lama went to Tibet and the first person to see when he came back from Tibet. Xi Zhjongxun, the father was also very liberal in his orientation and he was the closest ally of Hu Yaobong, the most liberal leader of China. Anyways, that was the father. Whether the son will be like the father or not, is to be seen. All the indications point out that he is the opposite of his father at the moment. On the issue of Tibet also, it's too early to say what he would do.

As far as my predecessor Prof Samdhong Rinpoche's visit to Wu Taishan Mountain in China which was reported, I asked him. Again, when you are in the government, there are constraints. We did not meet as you see he was in Dharamshala and I was going to the US. So, I called him and asked him: Samdhong Rinpoche, it's in the news. What should I say? He responded: I have not officially reported to you. So, you don't know. He has to brief me officially. So, I don't know the details. But it's out in the paper. I think we shouldn't read too much into it. At the most, it could be a private visit. I think we should not read too much and it's too early to say. Even after all the envoys and delegations went to China -they have nine rounds of dialogue with the Chinese counterpart - each time they went, there was speculation that things might happen. But after nine rounds, we are back to square one. In fact, there was regression as far as the Tibetan movement internationally is concerned, because we have restrained ourselves in the international front because of the dialogue that was going on. So, there was a lot of analysis being done. So, I think it's too early to say and we should not read too much into it. So, that's my assumption without having the official report.

Question: You spoke a lot about Denmark. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to Denmark in April 2011, I was the Indian ambassador. On his previous visit, many Danish leaders met His Holiness the Dalai Lama although they have said they are meeting on a private basis. During the 2011 visit, His Holiness the Dalai lama himself told me that nobody mat him in the public eye and four members of parliament from different political parties came to meet him at the hotel suite. And they did not enter the hotel from the main door; they came from the side door. So, there is pressure of working all over I have seen it myself.

Dr Lobsang Sangay: I agree with you. I told the Nordic countries and all the various capitalists, suddenly when I meet government officials; by default I become the expert on deception of China. So, I said Chinese strategy is like this. If you have a piece of paper, in fact, there is a saying, I am sure there are some people in the room who know this better. So, if you have a piece of paper. They will say we are friends and say that you keep your paper. All I need is a drop of my oil, that belongs to me but the paper is yours. You will think I am a good friend and I will allow him the ownership of the drop of oil. You sleep overnight and the next day, you will realize that the drop of oil has spread all over your paper and he takes the whole paper. Because that's the deal you have made. Similarly, they said the same thing to Denmark. Just say 'We oppose independence.' That's just one line and then whole conditions follow. Not just Denmark, Norway and Sweden but Switzerland also. And now in Australia what is happening is that there is a buyer's remorse. Just recently the Australian parliament introduced a bill called a foreign influence as in how they should restrict foreign influence. Clearly it was China and the Chinese foreign minister objected to that and then, it was so interesting actually, one politician also resigned recently, because the head of the political party criticized some aspect of the trade deal with China and this guy comes out and holds an impromptu press conference defying his political leader and criticizing his own party. Because Chinese business called him and told him to go in front of the media and told him to criticize his own party and government only because he simply criticized some aspect of the trade deal. This politician just resigned. So there is a buyer's remorse going on in Australia and a lot of debates. You can clearly see how they move in. They are very strategic businessmen. They buy the farm, they buy the cold storage, they buy the local transportation and export/import, everything. Now they have just introduced the bill and they are trying to rectify things. I don't know how far it will go hence we need a multilateral and coordinated approach to dealing with China. If you do single handedly, you will be crushed. For example, the Canadian prime minister, the Chinese defined the relationship with Canada as 'golden era', as gold and yellow as it can get, he went there and I was there in Ottawa that time saying Canada must put Tibet and human rights into discussion, you are going o have free trade deal with them, Don't give them a free pass on human rights. He said they are not going to mention human rights or Tibet but he said they will mention women rights, as he is a big fan of women's rights and how this cabinet is moving and labor rights because he is from the liberal party. He went to China and he said what about women rights and labour rights. And then Xi Jinping said, we need to have political trust, no deal. Trust us, you don't need all this. So Canada did not get free trade, even though he was simply asking for women rights and labour rights. So you can see conditions working but there is buyer's remorse happening in Africa and all the countries. Co ordinate, approach it and together you can make a dent. And India can lead that path.

Question: In 1959, when the Chinese moved into Tibet, three countries have locus standi to do something about it: United States, United Kingdom and India. For fifty years, when China moved in and became independent or whatever you call it, United States was much stronger than China. They didn't make China budge. Then finally due to trade few years ago, UK, a signatory of the McMahon and all these conferences, signed away the last trade and they said: suzerainty gives way to sovereignty. Today the only country that has locus standi on Tbet is India. I think the government is playing its cards well, slowly but surely, but a day will come through the party, through the government that India declares China because of what it's done and the threat it is to India, military occupation of Tibet and nuclear and all that, we go back. China doesn't have sovereignty over Tibet. It will electrify the world. Overnight, Denmark, Sweden, Australia will jump in. But India being the first to get affected when it says so, it will be like throwing a mini-atom bomb in the world. Keep it in mind, we got time it. Time is not yet but time is on our side, Chinese are overplaying. When I met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in June1999, I still remember he gave me an audience and I informed him that I gave a two-hour talk to Kashag and Reverend Samdhong Rinpoche will tell you what I said. China was conquered from the east. The reconquest of China will only take place from the east and that is where India comes in and Buddhism Comes in. Please keep it in mind, as it is one trump card we have that the Chinese can never ignore.

Dr Lobsang Sangay: Ambassador Lalit Mansingh just said, China can be transformed through Buddhism. I think Madhuriji we should end it here perhaps. I gave you all the Chinese influence and penetration and the impacts that it is having around the world. But there are some countires which are standing up. For example, Botswana. The President have said we want to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Botswana and the Chinese government have put a lot of pressure on him. And finally, he said Botswana is not a colony of China and I will do what I wanna do and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is coming. So, I think all the big powers including India has to follow the footsteps of Botswana and take a moral stand and be courageous. So there are countries who are standing up, I think it's only a matter of time. Like Australia having a buyer's remorse, and some other countries likewise. It will reverse.So coincidentally, just as there are more restrictions, there is also more interest on the issue of Tibet, that's why I get platforms. For example, when I spoke at the national press club of Canberra in Australia, it was taped which was half an hour presentation and half an hour Q & A, it was shown twice on ABC national TV. And when I went to Mexico for the first time, I couldn't fathom or figure out how to connect Mexico to Tibet and make the Tibet issue relevant. I though I would talk about environmental issues. The Newsweek in espanol, owner and editor came to interview me and they said they are considering to publish the news on the front page of Newsweek. But unfortunately what happened was, the same day I arrived, the president of Mexico went to to Beijing to sign a I don't know how many billion dollar trade deal, and the day after I left, Mexico had the biggest earthquake of the century. I cannot compete with the Mexican prime minister going to Beijing and the biggest earthquake of the century. But in the end what they - Newsweek Espanol- did was they went with my photograph on the front page to all the Spanish countries. So there are people, that are interested about China and they suddenly realize that unless you know the story of Tibet and the Tibetan narrative, the good, bad and the ugly side of it, you don't understand China. And hence, there are platforms. I just came from DC and New York, and I keep on traveling. And suddenly there is this growing space where people are curious about China and people want to do something China. So, once we put our mind together and have a clear strategy multilateral coordinated strategy, you can impact. And I do feel China is, they have proven that they are very good in trade. Their economy has grown exponentially in the last two three decades. The one belt one road initiative is essentially to capture the raw materials of the Eurasian countries and manufacture goods and sell it to the European market. That's their goal So they are already investing and they are already quite successful in advancing their economy , like the high speed train, nuclear power plant, electric cars, artificial intelligence, this is where they are investing. So they have a grand strategy and grand plan and they are implementing it with the one belt one road initiative. So, that's what they are trying to do. I think the weakest link of China is their foreign diplomacy. They use deception and they use Sun Tzu, but they don't have the finesse or the sophistication of what diplomacy should be. That's their biggest weakness. And they are coming and one could take advantage and turn it around and transform China for the better of China. We are not talking of destruction of China. We are talking about Buddhist-based democratic China. And what happens with Buddhist based democratic China, like Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, we always start with Om and pay homage to India. That's how we start. And the relationship between all the Buddhist countries and India will be founded, and will be based on that line. India has a marginal presence of Buddhists but all the fourteen Buddhist countries and 52 countries with Buddhist presence look to India as the center of the Buddhist world. And they start every scripture by paying homage to India and this great country.

A member of the audience asking a question following President Dr Lobsang Sangay's talk at the 3rd Prof M L Sondhi Memorial Lecture in New Delhi. Photo/Tenzin Jigme/DIIR