By – VIJAY KRANTI
Tibetan political scene in exile appears to be in for a dramatic change. People who have been used to watching the legendry Tibetan diplomat Lodi Gyari (also popularly known as ‘Gyari Rimpoche’) in action at Washington (D.C.) should not be surprised if they soon find him quitting his high profile assignment as the Special Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama and shifting his base station back to India. The hint comes from none other than Mr. Gyari himself who recently hosted a private reception for his newly wed daughter and her Bhutanese husband. Chatting with a small group of his old buddies in the Rock Garden of India International Centre, Mr. Gyari dropped the hint that his resignation is under consideration and that he intends to be more active in India after December this year.
The guest list, comprising some of the best known names among the Indian political and diplomatic community, left no one in doubt that despite his 15-year long absence from India, this high profile Tibetan diplomat still commands good personal rapport with the best connected people of the Indian capital.
Later in a short interview Mr. Gyari told this author that he had informed the concerned authorities in Dharamsala, in writing, way back in October 2003 about his intention of stepping down from his current post by the end of 2005. But what stopped him from going public on this matter for such a long time? “I did not make this decision public as I realised that the timing would, incidentally, coincide with the election of Tibetan Parliament and also that of the Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) of Tibetan Governemnt-in-Exile (TGIE). I did not want people to jump to all kind of conclusions”, he says.
Mr. Gyari has been heading the Tibetan side in its latest contact with the Chinese government. Since this contact was re-established between the two sides in 2002 after a break of nine years. There have been four rounds of discussion since then.
In his four decade long presence on the Tibetan political scene Mr. Lodi started as a Centrex member and then as President of Tibetan Youth Congress in its early days. Later as a bureaucrat he rose to the rank of Cabinet Secretary in the TGIE.
As an elected representative of Tibetans, he headed the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) as its Kalon (Minister). During his Dharamsala years he won the distinction of being the ‘best connected Tibetan’ as he enjoyed close relations with senior political leaders, bureaucrats and diplomats. His Indian friends have seen him playing a decisive role in the allotment of ‘tickets’ to certain individual Congress and BJP aspirants to the Himachal Assembly.
Does it mean the end of his 40 year long innings with the Tibetan government? “No”, he says with unambiguous assertion. “I’ve been in Washington DC for long 15 years. I’ve done as much as I could do for His Holiness as well as for the people of Tibet. Whenever I leave it I’ll be always available to His Holiness as his ‘free agent’. I would like to be more active in India which has been my main learning ground in my formative years. At the same time I would like to be more actively involved with NGOs like International Campaign for Tibet (ICT),” says Mr. Gyari who has been playing the role of an active advisor all these years despite his official responsibility as the official interlocutor in the Dharamsala-Beijing dialogue.
It may be interesting to note that in a situation where Tibetan authorities as high as the Dalai Lama and Prime Minister Prof. S. Rimpoche have been going out of their way to keep Beijing leaders happy, Mr. Gyari has been consistently allowing himself to be seen active with ICT, a known China baiter NGO and a strong critic of Chinese policies inside occupied Tibet. While Dalai Lama has been seen publicly dropping the demand for a ‘free Tibet’ and accepting ‘Tibet as a part of China’ in recent years, Prof. Rimpoche has invited the ire of many Tibet support groups (TSGs) across the world for his instructions and appeals to stop demonstrations against senior visiting Chinese leaders to their countries.
However, in recent years Mr. Gyari has emerged as an important rallying point for that powerful section of Tibetans and Tibet supporters who believe in dialogue as well as maintaining pressure on China on the Tibetan issue.
Reflecting his more cautious line of thinking Mr Gyari says, “Chinese took a long time to accept me as the Tibetan interlocutor. Their objection against me has been that I am an active ‘splittist’ and that I am actively involved in internationalising the issue of Tibet…. They wanted us to stop our international activities. But I made it clear to them that as well as our friends that if we stop these activities then they will be the first who will refuse to talk to us.”
To the question if his decision to step aside reflect the lack of progress in the Tibet-China dialogue, pat comes a typically diplomatic answer, “If I say that there has been a significant progress then it will amount to making a statement that is not completely true. Unfortunately there has not been a substantive progress. But still I would say that for the first time in three decades we had an uninterrupted process of dialogue for nearly four years. That is surely better than no dialogue. We have been able to have very frank and candid discussion in these four years.”
Although Mr. Gyari is keen not to let his decision to quit to be associated with the forthcoming elections for the Tibetan Parliament and for the post of Kalon Tripa, but the election process is bound to be affected by this development. There is no doubt that Prof. S. Rimpoche’s chances of re-election look bright at the moment. But keeping in view the fact that he has alienated himself severely from the younger generation of Tibetans through many of his orthodox decisions and China statements which have been perceived more as a ‘surrender’ than ‘Gandhian’ by the younger generation, the resignation of Gyari Rimpoche from his official assignment has the potential of offering a viable alternative to the younger voters as well as to those who prefer a stronger posture on the Tibetan side.
Interestingly, the provision of an open choice of nomination by the voters for the post of Kalon Tripa during the preliminary round of polling is bound to make the election more interesting that it was expected until the other day. With more than three months lying between December and the preliminary round in March next year, the Tibetan election scene deserves to become more exciting.
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