March 13, 2009
   Posted in News Flash
Published By Tashi


BANGKOK, Mar (IPS)  In 1934, to escape the crippling encirclement by the army of the nationalist Guomindang government, Mao Zedong and his Red Army, which had been holed up in the Jinggang Mountains of Jiangxi in southern China, trekked almost 6,000 miles over mountains, across marshlands and rivers, to re-group in Ya’nan in northern China. From this stronghold, the Red Army fought the Japanese and beat the nationalist Chinese army and emerged in 1949 to forge the People’s Republic of China.Twenty-five years after the Long March and 10 years after the birth of new China, another figure led his people in a new Long March. The flight of the Dalai Lama and about 87,000 Tibetans across the plateau and over the Himalayas into exile in India, Nepal, and Bhutan 50 years ago was not, for the world, an event of as epic proportions as China’s Long March. But for the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama’s 1959 escape into exile and the 50 years of re-building and nurturing the exile community have enabled Tibet as a civilisation to survive and flourish.In the early years of exile, the Dalai Lama’s one constant message to his people was this: Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. This has driven the Tibetans to accomplish nothing less than the renewal and rejuvenation of Tibetan culture and its spread to the world. This renewal process has been accelerated and strengthened by the re-establishment in exile of the key monastic institutions and the dense and growing network of cultural and spiritual resources that underpin the community and Tibetan Buddhism.The other achievement of the Tibetan exiles is that they have transformed one people’s political struggle into a whole civilisation’s right to exist and flourish. The Tibetan ability to transform a political struggle into a cultural one has infused the Tibetan struggle with the dynamism and determination of millions of non-Tibetans who identify with the values of Tibetan culture and have made the Tibetan people’s struggle their own.This said, things look grim for the Tibetan people in their dealings with China. In the last round of discussions with the two envoys of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese side categorically spurned Dharamsala’s proposal for regional autonomy for all Tibetans. Zhu Weiqun, the main Chinese representative at these discussions, recently commented: “The topic for discussion is simply that the Dalai Lama must completely give up any claims and activities related to separatism. He must ask the forgiveness of the central government and also the forgiveness of the people all over the nation.”China’s imperious rejection of the new Tibetan proposal springs from its confidence that it is firmly in control of Tibet. Indeed, the position of the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet is unassailable, reinforced and serviced by a network of all-weather roads, airports, and an expanding web of railway lines that make troop deployment and supplies rapid and widespread. The country enjoys good or normal relations with all its neighbours. China need not worry that any of its neighbours has the will or means to use the Tibet issue for nuisance value. China’s strong and assertive military presence in Tibet is further cemented by the economic boom that Beijing has set off on the plateau and that continues to attract China’s real “foot soldiers” -the migrant workers who demographically and culturally overwhelm the Tibetans in cities, towns, and in the critical area of job market. Chinese and multinational companies exploit at will the vast, diverse, and untapped natural resources of Tibet which are vital to sustaining China’s economic dynamism. In its nearly sixty years of occupation of the plateau, China’s position has never been better or stronger.In view of this, what is in store for the Tibetans in the future? To take stock of the situation the Dalai Lama convened a special meeting of Tibetans in the last week of November, 2008. The possible opinions of Tibetans in Tibet on what steps to take in the future were also sought. After a week of brainstorming, this extraordinary gathering overwhelming endorsed the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach.This means that the Tibetans will continue to do what they do best: conserving their strength by nurturing their community, preserving and promoting their culture, giving hope to those in Tibet, educating their children, and engaging China when it wants to.The problem boils down to engaging China. Even here there is distinct hope based on Tibet’s historical experience. The way successive lamas dealt with the Mongols and Manchus to protect Tibet’s distinct identity can be replicated in a manner that addresses China’s concerns and yet meets the aspirations of the Tibetan people. The Chinese leaders will be encouraged to do this by a growing number of Chinese, both within and outside the Party, who are quietly flocking to Tibetan Buddhist masters to find answers to questions of life and death that the Party cannot provide. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

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