Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tibet's Middle Way & Ethical Democracy

Barnett's piece "Did Britain just sell Tibet?" will almost certainly increase the profile of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University. Barnett will likely join the other talking heads on the US TV circuit, as yet another neoliberal dominant mainstream voice in the US-led global recession, which contextualizes British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's suggestion to China to provide capital to the IMF in return for voting power. Of course China is pleased with that craven suggestion, based on justifiable nationalistic pride in China's economic successes.

Q. Will the Tibetan people's interests be best served by either the British Government, The U.S. govt. or think tank programs in U.S. academe? The answer has got be an unqualified no, for now and the foreseeable future. Both the US (including its academic and other institutions) and Britain have very little to contribute. They both have the potential to do harm to the long term interest of Tibetans and Tibet.

The geopolitical configurations and reconfigurations of South and South East Asia (of which Tibet is a part) must be left to the sovereign nation-states of these regions because they are neighbors with historical ties and rapidly evolving contemporary cultural and economic relationships with nation states both within and outside their respective regions. BRIC (Brasil, India, China) would constitute such an example.

There is a dynamic balance of competing interests between the power economies of the sovereign nation-states of China and India.

The majority of Tibetan exiles live in India. China, a dictatorship "claimed" Tibet. India, a democracy "claimed" Sikkim. China's 'Tibetan question' is somewhat equivalent to India's 'Kashmir question'. Both think there is no "question."
The tacit support of one for the other in the corridors and conference halls of the U.N. have maintained the balance of power between them in the larger South and South East Asia regional contexts. Other sovereign-states, (even when they might only qualify as failing or failed states) in the region, Pakistan, Afghanistan are also part of the strategic equation. In addition, Russia is our neighbor. Iran is our neighbor, Iraq is our neighbor. The U.S. and Britain are not.

British Colonial control is still a shameful memory in the South and South East Asia regions. Britain was in the habit of "selling" territory and people of these regions during their period of Empire. U.S. neo-imperialism causes grave distrust among all countries in South and South East Asia.

The Dalai Lama has chosen the "non-violent Middle Way" to avoid the slaughter of Tibetans in their homeland and the destruction of their living religious and cultural heritage
To continue to persevere with this preferred Middle Way, in a highly complex inter-regional context with possible global repercussions,it is Tibetans and their leaders, first and foremost, who can best engage with the Chinese and their leaders, from safe havens and democratic spaces in Tibet, India and elsewhere.
Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice


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