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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Second opinion | China and the Dalai Lama enigma

November 14, 2007

The Post, Pakistan
Khalid Saleem

Every once in a while the Nobel Peace Prize Committee springs a 
surprise on an expectant world by nominating a candidate less on 
objective considerations and more on political expediency. One such 
was the decision to award the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai 
Lama. One has nothing against the Dalai Lama. He is undoubtedly a 
very revered personality among certain circles. He may also be a 
"symbol of peace" in the estimation of the Bush administration. But 
then he has also allowed himself to become a highly controversial 
political personality and one who has no qualms about being 
manipulated by certain powers to further their own agenda's on the 
chessboard of international intrigue. It is due to this reason that 
many had looked askance at the logic of selecting this revered, but 
highly controversial, personality for the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel 
Peace laureates are to be selected for their contribution, direct or 
indirect, to the furtherance of international peace and security, 
something that many had found wanting in the personality and the 
record of the Dalai Lama.

Ever since the Dalai Lama went into exile in the 1950s when China 
asserted its sovereignty over Tibet, he appears to have become a tool 
in the hands of those who have an axe to grind against the Peoples' 
Republic of China. Since then he has squandered away several 
opportunities of coming to terms with the reality of Tibet, which has 
been accepted as legally a part of China by most of the world. This 
is not the occasion to go into the political complexities of this 
question from the point of view of international politics. What is 
important is that the Dalai Lama could perhaps have done greater 
service to his followers if he had adopted the path of reconciliation 
rather than allow his followers to be kept hostage in a game of high 
stakes on the international chessboard. It would be more in the 
character of a Nobel Peace laureate to work for a denouement leading 
to a grand reconciliation rather than confrontation.

Be that as it may, it must have come as something as a disappointment 
to the well-wishers of the Dalai Lama and his followers to find that 
he has opted to become a pawn - once again - in the US's campaign 
aimed at the 'containment of China'. President Bush presented Tibet's 
'exiled' spiritual leader with the US Congress' highest civilian 
honour and took advantage of the occasion to offer some gratuitous 
advice to the Chinese leadership, which the latter appears to have 
taken exception to. The Chinese Foreign Minister is reported to have 
summoned the US Ambassador to express "strong protest to the US 
government". The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "The move 
of the US is a blatant interference with China's internal affairs, 
which has severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and 
gravely undermined the relations between China and the US."

China further warned that giving the award to a person it believes is 
trying to split its country would have serious consequences for 
relations. It stopped short of averring what it would do. The Chinese 
spokesman did add though that, "China urges the US to take effective 
measures immediately to remove the terrible impact of its erroneous 
act...and take concrete steps to protect China-US relations." China, 
thus, has made its reservations clear in unequivocal terms. 
Indirectly, it should also convey an appropriate message to the Dalai 

One cannot help feeling that the timing of the US Congress' award to 
the Dalai Lama could hardly be more inappropriate. There is no 
development in the recent past, least of all in the Dalai Lama's role 
that should warrant such a high level recognition. The only context 
that this award fits into is the US's ongoing campaign for the 
containment of China. In this campaign, the Dalai Lama appears to 
have allowed his self to be used as a (willing) pawn. Knowing and 
acknowledging his stature as a religious personality, this can be 
termed as something of a pity.

It has to be recognised that because of its pragmatic and realistic 
policies, China has earned itself a respected place under the sun. 
Due to its conscious policy to eschew unnecessary confrontational 
policies in favour of concentration on a constructive drive veered 
towards economic development, China is well on the way to becoming a 
major economic power. This is a fact of life that will have to be 
recognised by the rest of the world and particularly by the major 
powers that have to contend with the rising stature of the Peoples' 
Republic of China. The sooner this is recognised, the better it will 
be for all concerned.

It is a matter of interest that India appears as an inevitable 
variable in all the equations that concern China. Not only is India 
the host to the Dalai Lama and his cohorts, but also the recent co-
signatory of the India-US nuclear deal of doubtful credentials. 
India, of course, is second to none in its ability to manipulate the 
twists and turns of the moves on the international chessboard. In 
aligning itself with the sole superpower in this China-baiting 
exercise, it surely has a very good idea which side its bread is 
buttered on. So no one should have any uncalled for illusions. On the 
other hand, it would not be advisable to underrate China either.

The writer is a former (Pakistani) ambassador and former Assistant 
Secretary General of the OIC. His first book is a collection of 
essays entitled Halfway up the Tree
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