Just my two cents worth


December 2010

Potential Pitfalls in the Wake of Current Tibetan Election Process

On Friday, December 17, 2010, I attended an event for Kalon Tripa candidate, Kasur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, here in the Washington, D.C. area.  Even though some of us are familiar with Kasur Tethong’s background it was a good reminder of the contributions that Tibetans of his generation have made in the past. He reiterated his determination, if elected as the Kalon Tripa, the Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet.

Over the weekend I took the time to reflect on developments in the Tibetan election process. Although competitive election system is not something new to the Tibetans in exile, yet until this election cycle it has more or less been a tame affair. In the past candidates have sought recourse to direct and indirect campaigning but they did this mostly through word of mouth or informal channels.  Therefore, it is praise worthy that now we are seeing open and organized campaigning by and on behalf of candidates (mostly in the Kalon Tripa elections than in the parliamentary elections).  This is certainly an indication of increased political awareness and the result of Tibetans taking advantage of development in the field of information technology.

As we move forward in our ongoing Tibetan election process I feel there are some issues that the Tibetan voting public needs to be mindful of. I am saying this because we are taking baby steps in a more aggressive version of competitive elections with all the unforeseen possible consequences. Continue reading “Potential Pitfalls in the Wake of Current Tibetan Election Process”

Richard Holbrooke and Tibet

Following his untimely passing on December 13, 2010, it is a testament to veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke’s relationship-building skills that people from all corners of the world and all walks of life are talking about their personal connections with him.

I, too, had the privilege of meeting him quite a few times when I accompanied Mr. Lodi Gyari, the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who consulted him regularly on matters relating to China and Tibet.

During these meetings I could sense that he had a very personal attachment to the issue of Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is also indicated by his involvement in Tibet-related issues, both conspicuously (as in the case of public events organized by the International Campaign for Tibet) and also behind the scenes. He would voice his feelings on Tibet at every available opportunity, including in non-Tibetan fora. While he strongly supported His Holiness’ policy of negotiations with the Chinese leadership, at the same time I have seen him give straight forward advice without any hesitation to Mr. Lodi Gyari when he felt there was a need to do so. I remember him participating in a “Conversation” with the Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C in October 2007 along with Mr. Richard Armitage and Mr. Strobe Talbott during which he did not shy from posing very frank questions to His Holiness on Tibet. Continue reading “Richard Holbrooke and Tibet”

Understanding the Dalai Lama’s Retirement Statement

(This was first posted on the blog of the International Campaign for Tibet)

November 30, 2010

The recent media statements by the Dalai Lama about his desire to announce complete retirement has create a buzz among Tibet watchers at all levels. I have no doubt that the Chinese government, primarily, and all concerned governments are studying the implication of such a development. China is already testing the waters by having “scholars” comment  on the statement. The Chinese seem to be closely following the development, as they should be, and have publicly outlined the chronology of the Dalai Lama’s statements relating to his retirement.

At the onset, when the Dalai Lama talks about “retirement” it should not be taken in the way a conventional politician or international figure retires from public life. The Dalai Lama’s latest statement has to be understood in the context of his description of the historical responsibility of the institution and how it has changed in recent years. As he explains it, historically, the Dalai Lamas have been both the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet. While the temporal leadership was limited to the Tibetan people, the spiritual authority expands to almost all followers of Tibetan Buddhism who regard him as the manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. His spiritual followers have traditionally been the Tibetans, the Buddhists along the Himalayan region, as well as the Buddhists in Mongolia and the Russian republics of Buryatia, Kalmykia and Tuva (as I write this the Dalai Lama is giving teachings to several hundred Buddhists from these places in the  Russian Federation who have gathered in Dharamsala). In the post 1959 period there are several thousand followers of Tibetan Buddhism throughout the world who also revere him as a spiritual leader. Continue reading “Understanding the Dalai Lama’s Retirement Statement”

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