DELHI – There is more disappointment in store for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), who are the Tibetan leadership based in Dharamsala. It comes in the wake of Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s memo discouraging Indian officials from attending events hosted by the CTA. It has now come to light that the main event of the CTA’s year-long #thankyouindia2018 campaign has been moved from Delhi to Dharamsala.
Planned for 1st April 2018, the event was due to be held in Thyagaraj Sports Complex, a 5600-capacity stadium. When news first broke about the Honorable Gokhale’s note, it was speculated that the CTA shifted the event from high-profile Delhi to low-profile Dharamsala for fear of a spectacularly bad turnout by the Indian ministers. After all, no one would cancel a major event just three weeks before it is due to be held, solely on the basis of newspaper reports and without first corroborating with the ministers’ personal assistants.
Yet, we now know that the event was moved from Delhi to Dharamsala at the behest of the Indian government, known colloquially as “The Centre”. Why would the Tibetan refugees’ biggest sponsor, who has given them millions of dollars in tax-free aid as well as rent-free land for 60 years, suddenly make such a request? The only logical conclusion is that this is a clear sign of their eagerness to mend their relationship with China. As a consequence of this move:
- The Chinese leadership in Beijing now knows Delhi is serious about mending their relationship, which severely deteriorated over the course of 2017 to the point it nearly culminated in conflict. In Beijing’s eyes, this incident will reflect diminishing Indian support for the Tibetan leadership and if they so request, Delhi will in the future continue to respond with pressure on the CTA.
- To a lesser extent, Delhi also knows the CTA will be cooperative towards any future requests and will continue to expect such cooperation from them. Any resistance or hesitation will be viewed as the Tibetans’ reluctance to support Indian foreign policy.
- For the arrogant Tibetan officials who act with impunity, sometimes even getting into street brawls with people who do not share their views, this incident will show all Tibetans that in the face of a real administration, their own government is impotent and without any actual power. They exist on the basis of another party allowing them to exist and when push comes to shove, they have many masters to answer to. The CTA has no power over their own future – living in India, they are allowed to operate thanks to the kindness of India. In attempting to fulfil their political aspirations, their success rests in the hands of China. In trying to improve the Tibetan standard of living in exile, their abilities are controlled by the generosity of sponsors (whether governmental or private individuals).
- The news of the CTA being compelled to move their event from Delhi to Dharamsala will hurt Tibetan morale greatly. This is especially true of the Tibetans who live in Tibet, who rely on the CTA to express and act upon their aspirations for independence or an autonomous state. It is inevitable that this news will cause many people to lose hope and confidence in their leadership.
- The loss of hope, combined with the knowledge that their own leaders are powerless, will encourage more people to protest against Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and his government. Already Tibetans in exile are unhappy with Lobsang Sangay’s leadership, protesting him wherever he travels to. In recent times, two people have threatened to self-immolate against the CTA, as a result of his poor leadership. This added embarrassment and loss of morale may encourage others to speak up against Lobsang Sangay and his government.
- On the topic of poor leadership, the #thankyouindia2018 campaign was the brainchild of Dhardon Sharling, the secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations, who took great pride when announcing this campaign. No doubt her office will be blamed for the execution of this poorly-planned campaign that has met with nothing but embarrassment after embarrassment.
- In defending herself against these criticisms of her successive failures, Dhardon Sharling will invariably have less time to attack groups she perceives do not support the CTA, like Dorje Shugden practitioners whom she was very proud to release a video and book against. She will no longer have the political clout necessary to be so brazen in attacking other people.
- Dhardon Sharling is not the only one who will have to deal with a decline in political support. In seeing India rescind their support for the Tibetans, it may embolden other countries to deny them too. After all, India has been the Tibetans’ biggest sponsor for the last 60 years. Not only have the Tibetans received huge tracts of rent-free land, but they have not paid taxes for the millions of dollars in aid they have received. If India will rescind their support for the Tibetans in favor of a better relationship with China, it may encourage other nations to do the same because a precedent has already been set by the country from whom no one would have expected this.
- The incident will also inspire more media to report the truth about the CTA, which papers like The Guardian have been doing in recent times. The CTA and His Holiness the Dalai Lama are no longer the untouchable darlings of the media, as they have become embroiled in scandal after scandal related to everything from money laundering, to sexual assault, to embezzlement, to suppression of religious and media freedoms.
- No longer will people believe in the sincerity of the CTA. If the CTA were genuine in wanting to thank India, they would have gone ahead with the event at its planned venue, regardless of the turnout by the Indian ministers. In moving it to a location that bears no significance to the actual Indian population (Dharamsala is not an economic or political center for them), it reflects their real motivation for organizing the event to begin with. In actuality, the #thankyouindia2018 campaign was only organized in response to accusations of Tibetan ingratitude, which has been on the rise since the 2016 sweater market fire at Lal Qilla, Delhi. The whole campaign was intended to paint the Tibetans as having attributes such as gratitude, and therefore being deserving of more aid and assistance.
- If Tibetans are not interested in events that celebrate and commemorate their own significant history, they will not be interested in events celebrating others. Now that it is known the CTA were told to move to Dharamsala, it seems certain that had it continued in Delhi, the event would have been very poorly-attended. However, the situation will not improve by moving it to Dharamsala – for their own events which hold significance to the Tibetans themselves, fewer people are turning up each year. For example, during the Democracy Day celebrations in 2016, only 200 people turned up.
- The unparalleled prestige of holding an event in Delhi cannot be matched by an event held in Dharamsala. Unlike Dharamsala, the city of Delhi is a world capital, a global economic powerhouse and the administrative seat of the world’s largest democracy where the highest-level government decisions are made. Dharamsala, of course, bears nowhere near the same level of prestige.
- Allowing the event to take place in Delhi would have been the Indian government’s indirect support for the CTA. A Delhi-based event would have been very high profile and required security clearance, permits, etc. from the authorities. At this “sensitive time” in Sino-Indian relations, there is no way the Indian leadership would have allowed the CTA to host such a big event in the administrative capital of India at the cost of Indian foreign relations.
- The CTA has to remember the Indian government has already issued a memo against attending any CTA-hosted events. If their event had continued in Delhi and no one turned up, it would have been even more glaringly obvious that the ministers did not want to go or could not go, because they are all located just around the corner in the same city. In fact, prior to the news that the event had been moved to Dharamsala, it was revealed that former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declined to attend. Many other ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, did not RSVP.
- By telling the CTA to move it to a more controllable location like Dharamsala, the Indian government essentially saved the Tibetans from potential embarrassment. If the Chinese leadership continues to protest against the event, it will be much easier now for the Indian government to respond by saying Dharamsala is the CTA’s own territory, so they cannot do much to stop them.
- This is not the first time that Tibetans have been forced to downgrade. Most significantly, they were previously known as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGiE). After the Chinese lodged complaints about the illogical nature of two governments operating in one country, the TGiE were forced to downgrade to “Central Tibetan Administration”, certainly less prestigious and powerful-sounding when compared to having ‘government’ in one’s title. This downgrade was very painful to the Tibetans, and something that Tibetan thinkers and essayists like Jamyang Norbu complained about.
- The CTA needs to stop living in the past when they still commanded the world’s sympathy. This fiasco clearly shows they are not respected, and no longer have the sympathy and attention of the many countries who have supported them financially throughout the years. All it took was one memo from one minister to another, which was followed by a note to all officials, to send their year-long campaign into a tailspin.
It has been speculated that the Indian government themselves leaked the Foreign Secretary’s memo to discourage other people, such as Bollywood stars and Indian entrepreneurs, from attending CTA events in lieu of the ministers. If that is indeed the case, the CTA can look forward to even more poorly-attended events for the rest of the year. Interestingly, the memo and cancellation of the event was widely covered by the Indian press, but not by the Tibetan ones. Clearly the Tibetan papers are embarrassed by what most have correctly perceived as declining Indian support for the Tibetan leadership.
The Tibetan media have correctly appraised the situation but the same cannot be said of the CTA, who have demonstrated in the past that their normal reaction is to blame someone else. Given the CTA’s history, there is therefore the very real possibility that attacks against Dorje Shugden people will temporarily increase, since the Tibetan leadership need to retaliate and have to find a scapegoat for their failures. They need some means of redirecting their people’s anger and frustration against them, towards an easy target that has been unfairly vilified for 20 years.
Over time however, as more and more people join the Indian government in disassociating with the Tibetan leadership in favor of a relationship with China, the CTA will have no choice but to humble down. It has been 60 years of unchecked spending and unaccounted-for donations, and 60 years of everyone lauding them as paragons of the non-violent model of political struggle. These past six decades have led to a government that is arrogant, overreaching and overestimating their own influence and power.
Unfortunately, all of this news will only serve to disappoint His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who truly loves the Tibetan people and will perceive this incident as a loss of support for the Tibetan cause, and conclude that his people are not doing their job. This will not be the first time that the Tibetan leadership have disappointed His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has given his life to his people and unfortunately, because the CTA are driven by greed and self-gain, it will not be the last. Over and over again, they have embarrassed the Tibetan people and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to the point one has to wonder if it is intentional or something else. Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result and given the CTA has spent 60 years antagonizing the Chinese, and has no results to show for it, perhaps it is finally time they try a friendlier approach to Beijing before it is too late.
The below screenshots display the calendar and schedule that was planned for the #thankyouindia2018 event in Delhi which were later removed due to the changing of venue.
The Thank You India 2018 page on the Central Tibetan Administration’s official website, which has since been removed. Source: http://tibet.net/thankyouindia2018/. Click to enlarge.
News from the Central Tibetan Administration’s official website, announcing the Thank You India campaign. Source: http://tibet.net/2018/01/tibetans-launch-thank-you-india-campaign/. Click to enlarge
News from the Central Tibetan Administration’s official website, announcing the calendar of events for the Thank You India campaign. Source: http://tibet.net/2018/01/cta-announces-calendar-of-events-to-observe-thank-you-india-2018/ Click to enlarge
At the time of writing, the Thank You India 2018 page on the Central Tibetan Administration’s website has been removed. Source: http://tibet.net/thankyouindia2018//. Click to enlarge
THE HINDU: Government’s discomfort was ‘conveyed’ to Tibetan leadership on Dalai Lama events in Delhi
Click to enlarge (Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/governments-discomfort-was-conveyed-to-tibetan-leadership-on-dalai-lama-events-in-delhi/article22940334.ece)
SCROLL.IN: Tibetan administration calls off one Dalai Lama event in Delhi, shifts another to Dharamsala
Click to enlarge (Source: https://scroll.in/latest/870935/tibetan-administration-cancels-two-dalai-lama-events-in-delhi-the-indian-express)
OUTLOOKINDIA.COM: Dalai Lama’s Mega Events Cancelled After Government Asks Leaders, Officials To Keep Away To Please China
Click to enlarge (Source: https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/dalai-lamas-mega-events-cancelled-after-government-asks-leaders-officials-to-kee/309145)
THE INDIAN EXPRESS: Dalai Lama events in Delhi cancelled, Tibetans shift ‘Thank You India’ function to Dharamsala
Click to enlarge (Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/dalai-lama-events-in-delhi-scrapped-tibetans-shift-thank-you-india-function-to-dharamsala-5087375/)
FIRSTPOST: After controversial Cabinet note, Tibet’s govt-in-exile shifts event marking Dalai Lama’s 60th year in exile to Dharamsala
Click to enlarge (Source: http://www.firstpost.com/india/after-controversial-cabinet-note-tibets-govt-in-exile-shifts-event-marking-dalai-lamas-60th-year-in-exile-to-dharamsala-4378039.html)
FINANCIAL EXPRESS: Dalai Lama event in Delhi cancelled, ‘Thank You India’ programme shifted to Dharamsala, here is why
Click to enlarge (Source: http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/dalai-lama-event-in-delhi-cancelled-thank-you-india-programme-shifted-to-dharamsala-here-is-why-india-china-tibet/1088630/)
Addendum: Dalai Lama snubs Indian leaders as he is perhaps upset they snubbed him
Following on with the story that Indian officials asked the Central Tibetan Administration to move their celebrations away from Delhi, the Dalai Lama is reported to be be upset that the incident took place. In return, he has rejected attending an event which the President of India, Narendra Modi will be attending, showing his dissatisfaction.
Click to enlarge. (Source: https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/dalai-rejects-invite-215327)
Addendum: Indian minister rejects Central Tibetan Administration
Indian minister Kishan Kapoor did not turn up to an official Tibetan function to commemorate the 59th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day. As a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Dharamsala constituency and State Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Kishan Kapoor was originally announced as the Chief Guest for the event. In light of recent events, with the leak of an official Indian government memo directing ministers and officials not to attend Tibetan-related activities, it is clear that Kishan Kapoor was towing the line.
Following the cancelation of “Thank You India” events in Delhi and the banning of the Tibetan Uprising Day rallies in the India’s capital, it is clear that the Indian government think attending such events may harm Sino-Indian ties. Kishan Kapoor’s absence is a clear indication that the Indian government is now placing more importance on pleasing China than worrying about Tibetan sentiments. After all, it is in global interest that India and China mend their relationship. No one wants to see another Doklam standoff.
Click to enlarge. (Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/himachal-minister-skips-dharamsala-tibetan-function/articleshow/63249334.cms)
Addendum: Not Delhi or Dharamsala stadium, but a temple compound
After Indian ministers refused to attend the “Thank You India” events organised by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), officials have even asked the Tibetan leadership to move the event to Dharamsala instead of Delhi. The Indian officials did not want to jeopardize improving relations with China. Unfortunately, the venue of the event was re-located to a temple compound in Dharamsala, rather than a stadium. These incidents are clear signs that India is starting to abandon the Tibetans to get on China’s good side. Any country would do the same when it comes to the welfare of its citizens. This is even more so for India, because the Tibetans have never repaid India’s kindness. It does not make sense for India to continue to protect the Tibetans and jeopardize India-China relations. 1.3 billion Indians are definitely more important than a handful of Tibetans.
Click to enlarge. (Source: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/dalai-lama-event-not-delhi-or-dharamsala-stadium-but-temple-zone/articleshow/63324851.cms)
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