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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetans likely to back "Middle Way", hope for best

November 23, 2008

By Bappa Majumdar
Reuters
November 21, 2008

DHARAMSALA, India, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Tibetan exiles meeting in
northern India have failed to find a viable alternative to the Dalai
Lama's "Middle Way" approach to China, and admit they can do little
more than hope for a softening in Beijing's stance.

In the meantime, they must redouble efforts to maintain their
struggle, remain united and determined, and do what they can to
preserve their ancient culture, leaders said.

"The only thing we can do now is wait for some signals from the
Chinese government that there has been a rethinking and a
reconsideration of their position on the issue of Tibet," Kelsang
Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama's special envoy to China told Reuters.

"If that signal arrives, then the Tibetans will discuss how to respond to it."

Hundreds of Tibetans are meeting this week in Dharamsala, the
headquarters of Tibet's government-in-exile, to look for a way
forward after eight rounds of official talks on autonomy with Beijing
failed to make any progress.

They split into 15 groups of 40 each to brainstorm ideas, and came
together on Friday to discuss their conclusions before presenting
their ideas to the government-in-exile on Saturday.

There is an acknowledgement that the Middle Way, which abandoned the
dream of an independent Tibet in favour of seeking greater autonomy
within China through dialogue, has also failed. Beijing again firmly
rejected that idea in talks this month with the Dalai Lama's envoys
over the future of Tibet, which saw deadly riots and protests in March.

Frustrated at the lack of progress, many younger Tibetans said they
want to replace the "Middle Way" with demands for outright independence.

The speaker of the Tibetan government-in-exile told Reuters this week
the cabinet consulted thousands of Tibetans inside Tibet ahead of the
meeting for their opinions on policy.

More than 5,000 of those asked called for a change to the "middle
way" approach, 2,000 said it should continue as it is, while 8,000
said they would follow any future decision taken by the Dalai Lama,
Karma Choephel said.

Some groups at the meeting want to give China two years to resolve
the Tibetan issue or face more radical protests.

But an overwhelming majority said they wanted to stick to the
non-violent path, and most said there was little alternative to the
Dalai Lama's approach.

"The Middle Way approach is the way to go, but everyone in our group
agrees that Tibetans must be united and more forceful in their
demands," Youdon Aukatsang, a member of Tibet's exiled parliament
said on Friday.

Envoy Gyaltsen, who is in one of the groups, said the only option was
for Tibetans "to appeal to the international community and appeal to
the Chinese people".

ROADMAP FOR FUTURE?

Analysts and many Tibetans think the Dalai Lama called the meeting
partly to unite the Tibetan exile movement around a common approach
and prepare the ground for his gradual retirement and eventual death.

Speculation has been growing that the 73-year-old Nobel Prize winner,
who fled into exile in 1959 after an unsuccessful uprising in Tibet,
will have to play a less forceful political role in future,
especially if his health begins to fail.

"This meeting is more about uniting the people for the future and we
want to meet every two years," Tenzin Tethong, a former minister in
the exiled government said.

Others said the meeting would help to empower a political leadership
to carry on the struggle.

"Eventually, the Dalai Lama will not lead the struggle, he will
remain the spiritual head," Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea, former director
of the Institute of Chinese Studies said from New Delhi.

"But it does not mean they are going to defy him - there will be
respect and they will not blatantly drop the Middle Way."

For all their frustrations, many Tibetans have not given up their
dreams of autonomy or even independence, hoping democracy will one
day come to China and their voice will be heard.

"Everyday, there are about 30 uprisings all over China. The Chinese
people are getting more and more tired of the economy and it is going
to create social unrest," said the Dalai Lama's nephew, Khedroob
Thondup, a member of the parliament-in-exile who lives in Taiwan.
(Additional reporting by Abhishek Madhukar and Tenzin Pema; Editing
by Simon Denyer and Bill Tarrant) (bappa.majumdar@thomsonreuters.com;
+91-99585-86544;

Reuters Messaging:bappa.majumdar.reuters.net@reuters.com)
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