Monday 27 December 2010

WikiLeaks on Tibet: Environment tops Dalai Lama’s Tibet concerns

(, Dec19, 2010) One set of leaked confidential US diplomatic dispatches revealed on the WikiLeaks website are reported to show that the Dalai Lama may be shifting strategy to reframe the Tibet issue as an environmental concern, that there may be a widening generational gap between ageing Tibetan leaders and the new generation, and that India’s policy toward Tibetans was likely to be determined by public sentiments.

The Dalai Lama told US diplomats in 2009 that the international community should pay more attention to climate change rather than politics in Tibet because environmental problems were more urgent, Guardian online (UK) Dec 17 cited secret American cables leaked by the WikiLeaks website as revealing.

In particular, he was reported to have told Timothy Roemer, the US ambassador to India, during a meeting in New Delhi in August that “political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau.”

“Melting glaciers, deforestation and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that ‘cannot wait’, but the Tibetans could wait five to 10 years for a political solution,” he was reported as saying.

The Dalai Lama was also reported to show that he criticized China’s energy policy, saying dam construction in Tibet had displaced thousands of people and left temples and monasteries underwater.

Mr Roemer was reported to have speculated, in his cable to Washington reporting the meeting, that “the Dalai Lama’s message may signal a broader shift in strategy to reframe the Tibet issue as an environmental concern”.

The cables were also reported to reveal the desperate appeals made by the Dalai Lama for intervention by the US during the unrest in Tibet in the spring of 2008. Following heavy crackdown on demonstrations and rioting, he was reported to have pleaded with US officials to take action that would “make an impact” in Beijing. He was reported to have embraced the embassy’s officials and “made a final plea” at the end of a 30-minute meeting.

“Tibet is a dying nation. We need America’s help,” he was quoted as saying.

US officials were also quoted as saying in the dispatch, “A widening generational divide finds Tibetan leaders unable to resolve growing dissatisfaction among younger Tibetans.” The report said that in Jun’08, US officials reported that their visit to six Tibetan refugee settlements across north and north-eastern India “underscores concerns that frustrated and dissatisfied Tibetan youth ... could pose serious problems”.

The cable was reported to have a section titled “A militant Shangri-La?” under which the officials explained: “Their frustration’s effect on the Tibetan movement could be exacerbated by the passage of time, as the Dalai Lama’s increasing age inevitably slows down his gruelling travel schedule and his potential ability to continue to capture the world’s attention on his people’s plight.”

As regards the Indian government’s policy towards the Tibetans, US officials were reported to have said repeatedly in a Mar’08 confidential cable that it was likely to be decided by public sentiment. “A rise in violence — either by Tibetans here or by the Chinese security forces in Tibet — could quickly tip the balance in favour of the side with greater public support,” Shiv Shankar Menon, the current Indian national security adviser and then India’s top diplomat, was quoted as having explained to the US ambassador.

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