Tibet’s generation gap is no gulf

The attention of the world turned to Dharamsala last week when nearly 600 Tibetan delegates, as representatives of the six million Tibetans in Tibet and in exile, converged in this hill town to discuss the future of our struggle. This meeting was called by the Dalai Lama, and organised by the Tibetan Parliament. The Tibetan people were told to take greater leadership in light of the failure of the dialogue with China and the ongoing crisis inside Tibet. Excitement and speculation began brewing in many corners of the world — will the Tibetan people, frustrated by China’s intransigence, decide to pursue independence?
In an anticlimactic but somewhat predictable outcome, the delegates at the meeting spoke in favour of continuing the Dalai Lama’s conciliatory Middle Way approach which seeks autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. The option of changing the goal of the Tibet movement to complete independence was included in the final meeting statement as a possible alternative if there is no progress in the near future.
Wome observers have described this outcome as a blow to those of us advocating independence, but we don’t see it that way. As Tibetan youth leaders who participated in this historic meeting, we see this as a first step toward fundamental change. We understand, in spite of our impatience, that it is going to take some time to move the Tibetan establishment and public, long been committed to this approach. We were encouraged to see senior ministers and employees of the Tibetan Government in exile openly exchanging ideas with delegates representing the grassroots from far-flung Tibetan communities and NGOs. Many of us participated in passionate debates with respect for each other’s differing views. And in the end, we felt refreshed by the openness of the discussions.
To anyone who knows the recent history of Tibetan exile society and the often painful divisions that have occurred around the question of independence versus autonomy, this meeting was a very positive sign. The ultimate success of our movement depends on the creation of a vibrant democratic society that brings out the best in every individual — and that is exactly what we witnessed in Dharamsala last week.

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