Are these the kinds of comments that only an exiled leader would make? Perhaps and it’ll be certainly harden the views of many Tibetans that the Dalai Lama’s political skills have been less than stellar. Decades of talking and where has it got his people?
The Dalai Lama told US diplomats last year that the international community should focus on climate change rather than politics in Tibet because environmental problems were more urgent, secret American cables reveal.
The exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader told Timothy Roemer, the US ambassador to India, that 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” during a meeting in Delhi last August.
“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,” he was reported as saying.
Though the Dalai Lama has frequently raised environmental issues, he has never publicly suggested that political questions take second place, nor spoken of any timescale with such precision.
Roemer speculated, in his cable to Washington reporting the meeting, that “the Dalai Lama’s message may signal a broader shift in strategy to reframe the Tibet issue as an environmental concern”.
In their meeting, the ambassador reported, the Dalai Lama criticised China‘s energy policy, saying dam construction in Tibet had displaced thousands of people and left temples and monasteries underwater.
He recommended that the Chinese authorities compensate Tibetans for disrupting their nomadic lifestyle with vocational training, such as weaving, and said there were “three poles” in danger of melting – the north pole, the south pole, and “the glaciers at the pole of Tibet”.
The cables also reveal the desperate appeals made by the Dalai Lama for intervention by the US during unrest in Tibet during spring 2008.
As a heavy crackdown followed demonstrations and rioting, he pleaded with US officials to take action that would “make an impact” in Beijing.
At the end of one 30-minute meeting, a cable reports that the Dalai Lama embraced the embassy’s officials and “made a final plea”.
“Tibet is a dying nation. We need America’s help,” he was reported as saying.
Other cables reveal US fears that the influence of the 75-year-old Dalai Lama over the Tibetan community in exile might be waning or that a succession to his leadership could pose problems.
In June 2008, officials reported that their visit to six Tibetan refugee settlements across north and north-eastern India “underscores concerns that frustrated and dissatisfied Tibetan youth … could pose serious problems”.