Every time when I see the blissful pictures of the Dalai Lama in Ladakh, every inch of the frame reverberates a resounding echo harkening a sense of belonging to a familiar landscape we call our home, whence His Holiness escaped an imminent threat to his life sixty-four years ago after the Chinese PLA soldiers brazenly invaded and illegally occupied our country. When he fled Tibet and left the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lama was just shy of reaching 26 years of age. Potala palace was in fact bombed and thanks to UNESCO, it’s preserved as a Historical Heritage Site today.
Over the last seven decades, a lot has changed. China from being a third world country rose to stratospheric height, seizing upon the opportunity of the red-carpet welcome to the WTO laid out by the U.S led western allies, thus awakening a sleeping giant that has become a monster today in the globalized and symbiotic economy we live in today, in which China’s role, presence and engagement has become monumental. China in a nutshell became the factory of the world. When China sneezed, the whole world indeed caught cold.
Tibet from 1959 when she had just lost her sovereignty changed dramatically too. Tibet in this context is the Tibetan government in exile and the 120k or so Tibetans in diaspora. For the record, 98 percent of Tibetans are still trapped inside Chinese occupied Tibet. Over the years, Tibet’s cause changed from its “fight for independence” to settling for genuine autonomy. From aspiration for freedom and democracy, to a cause which morphed into a fight for self-determination and human rights. “Free Tibet” which was once a rallying cry has become a taboo.
Against such backdrop of a powerful China, His Holiness giving up calls for independence, unabated suffering of the Tibetan people under the CCP’s repressive regime, the aging of the Dalai Lama himself who just celebrated his 88th birthday, the wind of change in India’s policy towards the Dalai lama evidenced by the recent phone call of Modi to wish His Holiness on his birthday, the number one wish and aspiration of every Tibetans living and breathing both in the free world and inside Chinese occupied Tibet is to see the ultimate, epic return of HHDL back to Tibet. Their dreams are often manifested in photoshopped pictures, drawn out paintings and most recently on realistic AI images.
Turning back the clock to the infamous March 10th, 1959 uprising in Lhasa, one can conclude that it was triggered by fears of a plot to kidnap the Dalai Lama after the PLA officers invited HHDL to visit the PLA headquarters for a theatrical performance.
His Holiness though is hopeful that Xi Jinping will invite him to Lhasa in the near future. In a recent statement he made, he mentioned that in the coming days, he will visit Tibet to the hidden jubilation of Tibetans inside of Tibet. FYI, the name and picture of the Dalai lama is still banned in Tibet. He also said that the Chinese are contacting me and that he is open for dialogue.
If HHDL gets invited to Tibet, will the history repeat itself where Tibetans shall become fearful of another Chinese plot to kidnap the Dalai Lama like they did back in 1959 which catapulted the March 10th uprising. We must all be cognizant of the fact that in the eyes of the sold world, owing to their foreign policies of kowtowing to China “Tibet is recognized as a part of China” Therefore, Tibet’s issue is being weaponized by China as a domestic issue. On top of this, the CCP have always labelled His Holiness as a separatist, as a reactionary who wants to split China.
Truth be told, Tibet’s issues had never been an internal issue of China. Tibet has been a free independent country for centuries as opposed to the CCP which is only 74 years old. The International Community must step up to resolve the conflict between Tibet and China to end the occupation of Tibet as required by the International Law. The ambiguous stance of the U.S alone in sometime recognizing Tibet as a part of China and sometimes, referring to Tibet as an “occupied territory” is proof enough that the International Community must step up and drag China to the court of accountability. Tibet was invaded by China like how Russia invaded upon the sovereignty of Ukraine.
One must not also forget the fact that China is hell bent on hijacking the reincarnation process of the Dalai Lama and they are running out of patience to play the long wait game. Since I am sure that they can’t wait until His Holiness reaches up to the age of 113 as he said he would to install a fake 15th Dalai Lama.
Just as much as we want to see and find a closure to our cause by seeing His Holiness back to the Potala Palace. China wants to equally take advantage of our emotional hunger to see His Holiness climb up the stairs of the Potala palace and gaze at the square below from the balcony of his golden roofed room. This emotional pain and hunger can be very much weaponized by CCP. They might actually use this “hope for a closure” as a bait to lure His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Once His Holiness sets foot in Tibet, he might then be vulnerable to imminent arrest and what not. I am cautiously optimistic that if this dream becomes a reality by any imagination, provided if His Holiness is escorted by American officials, lawmakers and some U.N diplomats throughout his stay in Tibet that we can get some semblance of assurance to see His Holiness coming back safely to India.
I want to conclude with an old apt Tibetan saying “Chinese are doomed by suspicion. Tibetan are doomed by hope”
*The views and opinion expressed above are those of the authors*
Ugyen Gyalpo is an Operations Support Manager at Worldwide Flight Services, JFK, New York.
His blogger: The Roar of the Snow Lion