By Tenzin Dharpo
US President Donald Trump. file photo
DHARAMSHALA, MAY 26: The newly introduced US budget by the President Donald Trump administration has proposed on halting funds for Tibetans in 2018. The move seen by many as contrary to the decades old US assistance to Tibetans people in safeguarding and preserving distinct identity has taken the exile Tibetan diaspora in dismay.
The move is especially ominous with Tibetan exile government’s President Lobsang Sangay currently in US on a courtesy visit where he has met with eight members of congress from both the parties. Incidentally, the funds allocations for the Tibetans have largely been a congressional initiative. “As we work to streamline efforts to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of US taxpayers’ dollars, we acknowledge that we have to prioritise and make some tough choices,” an unnamed State Department official told PTI.
Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi who has spearheaded Tibetan relief efforts, has said, “Leader Pelosi is very concerned about the zeroing out of aid to the Tibetan community in the Trump budget proposal.” The State Department, in its budgetary proposal for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1, have removed the Tibet Fund and has proposed zero dollars against Ngawang Choephel Fellows, both seen as flagship initiatives in the Tibetan exile diaspora.
The State Department official also said, “Focusing our efforts will allow us to advance our most important policy goals and national security interests, while ensuring that other donor countries contribute their fair share toward meeting global challenges.”
The move if passes on the floor test in US Congress would entail stoppage of, “critical funding through the State Department for important efforts, like those in support of a genuinely autonomous Tibet, that advance and protect America’s interests in the world,” Hammill told reporters. However, the move is likely to encounter stiff opposition in the US Congress, experts predict.
The Tibetan exile diaspora, chiefly represented by the Central Tibetan Administration received bolstered funding through the years under the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, signed by former President George W Bush during his reign and passed into law thereafter.
Tibetan NGO’s and organizations have been receiving funds from various US government affiliates such as the USAID and NED over the years. One of the biggest funding received for Tibetan people worth US$23 million to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was sanctioned earlier in 2016 as the ‘Tibetan Self Reliance and Resilience (TSSR) programme’ funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was approved by the US Congress.
The funding, which will be a big part of the CTA’s annual budget, will be allocated on a yearly basis over a period of five years as per the initiates developed by CTA. The US$4.9 million provided for the financial year 2017-18 is included in the current CTA budget of INR 2,434.6 million (US$37 million approx).