Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay Speaks to NewsX
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay while speaking to NewsX exclusively warns India about China.
Posted by TIBET TV on Friday, 14 August 2020
Dharamshala: On the eve of the 74th Indian Independence Day, CTA President Dr Lobsang Sangay appears on prime-time NewsX to greet the country on the historic occasion. Having progressed by leaps and bounds since independence, President Sangay lauds India’s ‘tremendous progress’ in social, economic and political fields; furthermore its resilience in overcoming historical setbacks—of the partition, Sino-Indian war of 1962 and 1967—and emerging triumphant against all the odds.
As India is faced with yet another clash with China at its borders in Galwan, one that has remained unresolved for months now, Dr Sangay says India must continue to defend its territorial interests and emulate the tactical pushback of Dokhlam 2017 for ’Doklham pushback was one incident which caught the Chinese government by surprise and they withdrew to some extent.’
In the exclusive 17-min interview, the President succinctly captures China’s typical modus operandi to encroach and usurp which it first pursued in Tibet in 1950s and lately, at the Indo-Tibet border, in Nepal, the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
But beyond the military and economic fronts, Dr Sangay warns that democratic India has an ideological battle to win against the CCP regime.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Rishabh Gulati: Dr Sangay, thank you so much for sparing your time for us here on NewsX and all our viewers. At a momentous time in a very very difficult year, sir, looking back at what I have to now say is a parallel history of Tibet and India running from 1947 through the 1950s to today. As we complete these 80 years, what is your message to the people of India?
President Sangay: First, I want to wish a happy independence day. Independence is a major achievement. For the last 74 years, India has made tremendous progress in the economic field, political field and especially socially, with such diverse languages, cultures including so many gods and goddesses, to have one India is remarkable. Soon after the independence obviously, there was the partition and the 1962 war with China and then 1967, India has faced challenges but nonetheless, India has overcome all these major challenges and remains united. This is a remarkable achievement.
Rishabh Gulati: Looking back in the history that would have been narrated by your family and the people you work to what happened in the 50s, what are the memory?
President Sangay: It’s a memory of betrayal and tragedy. When the Chinese Communist Party first came to Tibet, they promised us prosperity and all the good things that a major neighbouring country would do. But once they managed to enter Tibet and once they managed to build one road connecting China to Tibet, then came tanks, guns, trucks, killing hundreds of thousands of Tibetans, destroyed 99.9 percent of monasteries and nunneries, disturbed monks and nuns and prevented Tibetan from practising their religion and their own culture. Essentially the CCP wanted to convert Tibet into a Chinese province and make Tibetans into Chinese. This has been their effort. It was a story of betrayal and tragedy which then forced Tibetans to flee to India to seek refuge with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Rishabh Gulati: Living in America and subsequently your time here in India, the perspective of the global Tibetan movement, to raise awareness of this cause which has been very ably led by His Holiness himself, what was the experience that you had through as a young individual through that process to the important position that you hold now, Sir?
President Sangay: Someone who was born and brought up in refugee camp and went to a refugee school, obviously your understanding of the world is limited and your ambition is, in some ways, limited because essentially it was a challenge of livelihood but I struggled through. Even in refugee school, I managed to do relatively well given the circumstances and the facilities. I managed to go to Delhi University and then to get Fulbright scholarship to go to Harvard Law School to do my master’s degree, a doctorate and then I was employed there as a fellow and senior fellow. So in terms of “modern goal or ambition”, I kind of achieved my ambition from refugee camp to Harvard law school.
Rishabh Gulati: You could have been a high profile law professional or a legal practitioner there. What brought you back to be involved in the cause, sir? What was the root that was so important to you?
President Sangay: My father suffered a lot. Among ten siblings, only he managed to escape to India so when you hear about his siblings whom he never got to meet and that they were not allowed to meet. He gets news that his younger brother had died and his sister had to commit suicide and jump into a river even though she was pregnant because her husband was humiliated every week and imprisoned. She had to undergo public humiliation because her husband was “rebel”. In our eyes, he was a patriot. Some were dying of hunger and torture. So you hear all these stories and it is inculcated in me both from my father’s and mother’s side to serve my country. To lead the freedom movement has been an inspiration not just for me but every Tibetan youth. Ultimately I managed to return to India and serve His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.
Rishabh Gulati: Where does the service now lie? Has the situation, in your understanding of it, improved or gotten worse?
President Sangay: No, unfortunately, it has gotten worse. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Before at least till 2013 and 2014, people could talk to each other and get some information. Now there is not just physical clampdown, there is technological clampdown that every movement of Tibetan people are watched and followed through what they call the Social Credit System in China. If you behave badly in China, you are denied an air ticket or train ticket to travel outside o your district. But in Tibet, if your social credit system is low, you are sent to prison and are tortured. Atleast 154 Tibetans have burned themselves [in Tibet]. Serta [Larung Gar] monastery is destroyed; half of it is gone. The Yachen gar nunnery which was a huge infrastructure with 5000 nuns, half of it is gone. You can google Yachen gar and you can see it. Human rights violation of every sort is taking place. Tibetans in Tibet are living in fear because every second or third person is watching and closely monitoring them. There is manual surveillance and there are technological surveillance and both ways you are squeezed.
Rishabh Gulati: Thank you, sir, for narrating your deeply personal story and the current situation and your understanding of it. As every month passes what is changed in the outlook after what happened in Galwan on June 15; a lot of global scenario change is happening as we speak. What is your understanding of it, particularly when it comes to India and China?
President Sangay: We are very grateful to this great land and the people fo India for hosting us, for being a very generous host. But for the last 60 years, we have been saying and infact, shouting that you can’t trust the Communist Party of China. They promise you one thing and then they betray you. You have to always verify, verify and then only trust. Till the tragedy at Galwan valley, the Indian population as a whole, we are people of values and we trust people; this is our ethos. Then the betrayal came so there’s a growing realization even in India that what was promised by the Chinese government is not necessarily delivered.
Hence now there is a growing awareness and NewsX has played a major role in creating awareness among the younger generation of the Indian population that it was never a border between India and China; it was always a border between India and Tibet. Once you say it is Indo-China border, the Chinese army will come to the border because you say it is China border and you say Tibet is part of China. This realization of Tibet as a buffer zone played a vital role in keeping India and China separate, not an inch of land border was there between India and China.
Rishabh Gulati: What can be done in a circumstance because you have a unique perspective. You have lived in America and India for a long period. You are well travelled globally and well-read and are deeply committed to your cause. In this particular circumstance, not only generating awareness but converting that awareness into actionable, what do you think can be done?
President Sangay: Globally, Washington led this idea in the 1970s that you can cooperate with China and then China will come and follow the rules of the game of the International organizations and international values. Now there’s a realization that no, less cooperation and more competition mainly from the Chinese side. So India also went through all the Prime Minsters except for Lal Bahadur Shastri, subscribed to cooperation with China and less of competition. Now globally from the US to Europe to Australia to Japan, all are coming to one conclusion: China wants to compete with you not just in economic terms but ideologically, politically, geopolitically and even socially and culturally with all these Confucius institutes. They are influencing Hollywood movies. You mention Tibet or Taiwan or Hong Kong and the producers don’t get funding so even Hollywood movies are being influenced by the Chinese government. So yes, it is a competition. We are not saying don’t engage with China, you should but the completion is a norm globally and India should do the same. Hence at international forums like UNHRC and UN forums, India should be in partnership with other democratic allies and raise issues of Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang and say that these are common democratic values we have and China should uphold these norms and regulations.
Rishabh Gulati: Do you think India as a power in its own right today has this realization because we are talking about heavy development in Ladakh, all the way to our sea frontiers in Andaman right now, are you seeing the winds of change?
President Sangay: Yes. Doklham was one incident where there was pushback and that caught the Chinese government by surprise and they withdrew to some extent. But as usual, Chinese strategy is that they enter 10 km and they retreat 2 or 3 km and call it a peaceful settlement but in the process, they have occupied 7 km of land. Having said that, that push back was the first time. Even in Galwan valley, the push back should continue. Similarly, at least asserting your own territory, your own right and values should be the way because Chinese government always go with the mindset that if you are weak and submissive they will make you kaopao, which is a traditional practice. If you are bold and assertive, they respect you.
Rishabh Gulati: If push comes to shove, sir and it might in the South China Sea, East China Sea, in the straits of Taiwan. There is such heavy build-up that we haven’t seen in the recent generation, not since the turn of the millennium at all. I have never seen such a heavy build up on the Indo Tibet border in my lifetime in the scale of the IAF squadrons and the troops that have been deployed. If push comes to shove, how do we ensure that you as representative of Tibetan administration and the people of Tibet are made stakeholders in what comes next?
President Sangay: You’re right. Globally and regionally, when there is economic growth, they buy a lot of arms and the world war I and II took place. In the last decades, the economic growth has taken palace mainly in the Arab world they discovered oil. Then they also started buying lots of arms so there are conflicts. In recent years, more economic growth in Asia and now Asia has taken over the Arab world in buying arms by 5 – 10 percent. More arms and more money you have, more conflicts are a likelihood. China to declare themselves as number 1 in the world, they will take on countries that declare themselves as number 1. I just fear that violence is likely to happen. So we, under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, believe in the ahimsa, koruna and we believe in Gandhi’s notion. Our movement itself is based on nonviolence. We just pray that everything is resolved peacefully and nonviolently. But this is a global trend from Europe to Arab countries to Asia, more arms you have, more likelihood of violence. I hope it doesn’t happen. Peace is the way to go hence the Chinese government should learn the lesson and should not interfere in other’s borders.