Three elected members of the Dharmsala-based Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile are in Indian-administered Kashmir to seek the support of pro-Indian leaders in their campaign against Chinese rule in Tibet.
On their five-day visit to Kashmir, the trio met Tuesday with a range of local political figures, including two former chief ministers.
Exiled Tibetan lawmaker Dawa Tsering told VOA that India has a crucial role to play in the Tibetans’ struggle.
"Tibet holds significant importance for India on multiple fronts,” Tsering said. “Prior to Tibet’s occupation, there was no historical precedent of Chinese forces being stationed along the Himalayas,” the scene of deadly border clashes between the two countries in recent years.
Tibet had served as a politically neutral buffer zone between China and India prior to its 1951 annexation by China, Tsering said, adding that the loss of that buffer has cast a pall over diplomatic relations between Beijing and New Delhi.
Tsering said Beijing has deployed missiles and built military infrastructure near India in what he described as an attempt to encroach upon Indian territory.
“Tibet witnessed the same moves before China occupied Tibet,” Tsering said. “Now, China is aiming to capture Indian territories and they are rapidly building infrastructure in Tibet along the Indian border.
“It is high time for India’s people and the government of India to boycott the Chinese goods so as to weaken China’s economy."
Fellow exiled lawmaker Yeshi Dolma said Tibetans have been “traumatized by systematic violations of their most fundamental human rights” and the attempted eradication of Tibetan cultural and national identity since China's annexation.
“Over the last seven decades, the situation in Tibet has been deteriorating to the extent that it is now facing imminent threat of cultural genocide and total annihilation of Tibetan identity,” Dolma said during a press conference in Srinagar.
In a statement to journalists, Khenpo Sonam Tenpal, speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile — now called the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) — said Tibet has been ranked among the world’s least-free territories by Freedom House for the third consecutive year in its 2023 Freedom in the World report.
“Last year, U.N. human rights experts expressed serious concern over the large-scale colonial boarding schools in Tibet rampantly being implemented on a massive scale and referred to it as a way to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards,” Dolma said.
“Likewise, the forced mass DNA sample collection of Tibetans, including kindergarten children, is an intrusive securitization measure under the authoritarian surveillance regime to instill fear and wrest control of all aspects of public and private life of the Tibetan people.”
Tenpal admonished Kashmiri leaders to urge New Delhi to recognize Tibet as an occupied nation, to call on Beijing "to re-engage in dialogue with representatives of His Holiness Dalai Lama without condition,'” and to demand China's release of all political prisoners, including Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama whose whereabouts have been unknown since 1995.
China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010. India considers Tibet as part of China, though it is hosting Tibetan exiles.
Ghulam Hassan Mir, senior vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, acknowledged that Central Tibetan Administration officials met with party leaders at his residence.
“The delegation informed us about the historical context of the Tibetan dispute and furnished us with a memorandum, pamphlets and historical documents,” Mir told VOA.
“We reassured them that the Apni Party and its leadership are committed to upholding democracy, democratic values, and safeguarding the fundamental and human rights guaranteed to all individuals by the U.N. Charter in every nation.”
China says Tibet has historically been part of its territory since the mid-13th century, and its Communist Party has governed the Himalayan region since 1951. But many Tibetans say that they were effectively independent for most of their history, and that the Chinese government wants to exploit their resource-rich region while crushing their cultural identity.
The Dalai Lama, the Tibetans’ exiled spiritual leader, and his followers have been living in Dharmsala since they fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Some information is from The Associated Press.