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America should confront Chinese 'lebensraum' in Tibet
Press-Citizen[Monday, August 04, 2003 10:30]
By Krishna Das

Terrorism and fundamentalism currently are on the world's radar. But in the zest to hunt down the Husseins and bin Ladens, the world may have forgotten the path to change via non-violent means regarding Tibet.

Hitler's "lebensraum," the concept of living space, has been and is being practiced by the Chinese in Tibet. Rur-al Chinese denizens have moved to Tibet. The Chinese have committed genocide with more than 1.2 million Tibetans either missing or killed in the last five dec-ades, according to the Inter-national Campaign for Tibet. Buddhist temples have been razed the ground and the practice of Tibetan culture with reverence to the Dalai Lama is considered taboo.

Immediately after the communists took power in China in 1949, they began as-serting a claim that Tibet was part of Chinese territory. By 1950, Chinese forces stealthily infiltrated Tibet's northeast border province. That year, the 15-year-old Dalai Lama evacuated the capital and set up a provisional administration near the Indian border at Yatung.

In 1959, the potential threat of the Chinese overrunning Tibet and the possibility of the Dalai Lama be-ing incarcerated triggered his departure from his homeland. On March 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama escaped to India.

He was granted asylum by the Indian government, which also helped set up ref-ugee camps for the thousands of Tibetan refugees all over India. There are currently nearly 150,000 Tib-etans living as refugees in India.

What is being done?

• By the Tibetans - The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people have used diplomacy and non-violent activism in the hopes that the People's Republic of China will be condemned and pressured to withdraw its occupation forces.

• By the world - Most of the countries, including India, have remained mute spectators. Some have ex-plicitly stated that Tibet is an autonomous region of China.

• By the United States -The sole superpower's reaction has been similar to the rest of the world. This is where the problem sets in.

The United States should take the lead and become vocal about Tibetan independence or some form of full autonomy. America's muteness only has emboldened the Chinese, who continue their tirades against the Tibet. Soon, the Tibetan culture will be decimated.

Some form of carrot and stick approach needs to be adopted in the case of Tibet, as is being done regarding Taiwan. The world needs to take a concerted stand in this case as they have done with terrorism. A Tibet free of Chinese occupation forces also will lessen tensions between India and China by acting as a buffer between the two Asian giants. They went to war in 1962 over border disputes after the Chinese occupied Tibet. It becomes all the more dangerous now since both are nuclear powers.

If the Tibetan cause is forgotten, the possibility of the Chinese lebensraum policy may shift deeper into other parts of Asia. If not checked now, the United States may have to contend with a major problem in the next two or three decades, considering that China may emerge as a major competitor and threat to the West, militarily and economically.

The world is witnessing terrorism and trying to act accordingly by fighting fire with fire.

It may be the apt opportunity to take a few cues from the Dalai Lama who said this about the Chinese: "China is a great nation, (and) things are getting worse in Tibet, but the power of the gun will not remain in the long run."

Krishna Das works at Iowa State University Extension and is the program co-ordinator for the Non-profit Management Academy. He is a member of the Writers Group, a corp of local residents who write regular opinions for the Press-Citizen.
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