An excerpt of an Asia Times piece on the shift in the politics over Tibet.
Dalai Lama wants to go green
By Saransh Sehgal
DHARAMSALA, India – United States secret diplomatic documents disclosed by WikiLeaks have shown that the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, wants to shift the focus of the Free Tibet movement from Tibet’s political future onto climate change in the Himalayan region.
Frustrated by the stagnation of five decades of political wrestling with Beijing over Tibet’s future, analysts say, the Dalai Lama now hopes that pressing Beijing over climate change in Tibet will attract more attention and support inside and outside of China.
Near the end of 2010, WikiLeaks released a series of
Washington’s diplomatic secrets related to the Dalai Lama, Tibet and India. The most controversial revealed that the Dalai Lama told Timothy Roemer, the US ambassador to India, that the political agenda should be sidelined in favor of climate issues.
“The political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau. Melting glaciers, deforestation and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that ‘cannot wait’, but the Tibetans could wait five to 10 years for a political solution,” the leaked memo quoted the 75-year-old Nobel peace laureate as telling ambassador Roemer during a 2009 meeting between the two, according to the cable obtained by WikiLeaks and released by British newspaper the Guardian.
The Dalai Lama also hoped for Washington’s support for his new approach. “The Dalai Lama requested the United States consider engaging China on environmental issues in Tibet,” the leaked US memo said, and Roemer speculated that “the Dalai Lama’s message may signal a broader shift in strategy to reframe the Tibet issue as an environmental concern”.
Interestingly, this tactical change was revealed at a time when many in the exiled Tibetan community are becoming impatient with their god-king’s “middle way” approach and are eagerly awaiting the election of a new exiled leadership in March 2011. The Dalai Lama himself has pledged to give up his political role after the election.
The Dalai Lama’s new tactic has become a hot subject among Tibetans in exile. Many hope this will attract more attention and bring more support not only from their compatriots inside Tibet, but also from foreign countries and environmental organizations. Many exiled Tibetans here also think it is a very wise move by the Dalai Lama. For, while he is unlikely to see a political settlement on the Tibet issue in his lifetime, he could keep the world’s focus on Tibet by highlighting the climate issue.
The Tibetan region, the world’s largest and highest plateau, is well known among environmental activists as the Earth’s “third pole”. It contains the biggest ice fields outside the Arctic or Antarctic, and its glacial melt has direct consequences even outside of the region. No other area in the world has a water repository of such size as in Tibet, where it serves as a lifeline for much of the continent and millions of people in countries downstream.
In its efforts to integrate the Tibetan region under its full control, the Chinese government has fully utilized the Himalayan plateau for its industrial potential. Extensive mineral exploitation, hydropower projects and the mining of uranium – of which Tibet contains the world’s largest known reserves – have been going on unchecked, leaving the region irreparably marred.