Thursday, December 3, 2009

Indo-Tibetan Friendship: A Relic Of History

( Picture courtesy: RTYC Delhi website)
A friendship that outlasts time and holds its ground when trouble comes forth, is one that is hard to be witnessed these days. Tales of sacrifice and mortal risks taken for the sake of friendship is now more or less a content for lore.

With nations rising out of the complexities of our era and societies driven with the sole purpose of self-interest, true friendship is a thing of past.

A couple of months back, we commemorated an event "Thank You India", displaying our gratitude for the hospitality of our Indian friends. An event, that in Dharamsala, the center of all that is Tibetan, a place referred by many as "Little Lhasa", turned out to be a no event at all, at least for me. Except one sole local Indian MLA or official of some sort, the usual dignitaries of Dharamsala, meaning the Tibetan MPs and a few Kashag ministers were the main guests. The crowd was all Tibetan and the vagabound foreigners as usual. No sign of any local Indians or the local community of Indians around Dharamsala.

We sang and danced to ourselves, celebrated an event marked to thank India, a bit too much among ourselves. The event was held at "The Temple" close to where His Holiness resides. Outside it, the Indians were as indifferent to it as they are usually to the countless candle light vigils they are so used to witnessing. The subtle displeasure and discomfort between the local Tibetans and Indians appeared no less than it was the previous day. This made me wonder, are we really thanking a country and its people who gave us refuge or we are just doing it for maintaining the usual hollow pleasantry. Since i was in Dharamsala at the time, I didn't see any open invitation flying out to the local Indian community, i didn't recall anyone waving a casual "Thank You India" to a local Indian. What was this all about? What are we missing in the dynamics of Indo- Tibetan Friendship? Has it really turned out to be a relic of history, we are so used to thanking and praying about?

It has been over 50 years when we first entered India. Despite having successfully established monasteries, settlements, schools and a functioning government in exile, we haven't been able to integrate well neither culturally nor economically with the local Indians. Tibetans still fail to take advantage of the economic boom the subcontinent had been having for more than a decade now.

Politically, the support for the cause of Tibet from the Indian government had been taking a downward toll for now many years. It was in fact never strong to begin with since the time of Pandit Nehru, and yet it could never grow in the prevailing geopolitical and economic reality of the time, with China turning into a global power. However, what many, especially Tibetans, fail to acknowledge, is our failure in creating a strong consensus among the Indian populace for supporting the cause of Tibet.

We Tibetans have continually maintained the hereditary affliction of "Isolation" even while we were raising the next Tibetan generation in India. I was born in India, and never have I seen community interaction between Tibetans and Indians, go beyond, sweater selling.

Tibetans never tried to take advantage of the industrial boom in India's services sector, production and manufacturing fields and many more.

Except a few dilly dollying projects by the Tibetan government in exile, I hardly witnessed any initiative that could have made the Tibetan community in India a strong economic faction. Even initiatives of social interaction and integration between Tibetans and Indians carried out by the TGI were either sporadic or rare.

All this, in my opinion has also played a major role in dwindling political support by the Indian government. The bottom line is, we didn't do our part either to be recognised as something important and significant. And all this is not the job of His Holiness, but the job of our elected government, which of course has its limitations but nothing could have barred it from taking aforesaid initiatives.

So the hulla-bullu about an Indian leader recognising Tibet as a part of China is meaningless and trifle. India recognised tibet as a part of china since the 50's. What is more important is to notice that we Tibetans miserably failed in changing that stance of the Indian government. Without having tried the possibilities we cannot judge the outcome of its impact.

Personally, what i would like to see, would be the building of consensus among the general Indian populace for more support for Tibet, and these are not only the people who come so often on television news panels or academic discussion, but the populace that votes. We are in fact foolish to pin all our hopes on the US for political leverage. A strong support from India, will make the Chinese think. These are two nations bordering each other with a lot of issues, disputes and mutual interests at stake. I would even go to an extent of saying that, perhaps the political relationship between India-China is far more balanced than the one sided 700 billion dollar credit relationship between US and China.

Indo-Tibetan friendship could go beyond just becoming "A Relic Of History" and the responsibility to do that mostly lies on us.