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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Moral duty to back Tibet

April 8, 2008

The Pioneer
Sunday April 6

Claude Arpi

The recent riots on the 'Roof of the World' have triggered a flurry of
reactions. While Indians in general defend the plight of the Tibetan
people, some (read Beijing's comrades) believe that it is "an internal
affair of China" and that Delhi should scrupulously follow the principle
of non-interference in its neighbour's affairs. Still others strongly
feel that it is a ploy of the CIA to weaken the Chinese Government and
ultimately control the rich mineral resources of the Tibetan plateau.

The latter cite as examples the numerous occasions when the Dalai Lama
has been received by the White House or other Western heads of state;
the Congressional Gold Medal having been presented to him by the Speaker
of the US House of Representatives; or, even the support the Tibetan
guerrillas got from the CIA in the 1960s (it ended before President
Richard Nixon's visit to Beijing in 1972).

Personally, I am not a fan of the US, more so since President George W
Bush made a fool of himself and his country by rushing to Iraq for a few
more drops of oil. But why equate the policies of the present US
Administration with the Tibetan issue?

The political choices made by the Dalai Lama are altogether a different
matter. To criticise him because he has roamed the world for the past 35
years (his first trip to the West dates back to 1973) as a mendicant
seeking support and help for the survival of his people, is not fair.
Can someone in life-danger fuss about the emergency team trying to
provide first aid? Whenever Western Governments or institutions or
individuals have shown consideration and understanding, was it not
normal for him to gratefully accept it? Some blame him for receiving the
support of Hollywood stars, but is it because one acts in movies that
one is a bad guy?

At the end of the day, what is the Tibet issue about? No doubt, for the
Tibetans, it is the fate of their country which is at stake, but for
Western (and Indian) people, the question of human justice is involved.

Two years ago, in an interview, the Dalai Lama had told me (he used a
similar argument in his recent NDTV interview): "I have three
commitments: First, as a fellow human being, promotion of human values
is my first priority, this covers six billion human beings. Second, I am
a Buddhist, and as a Buddhist I want to promote religious harmony; the
third is about Tibet. It concerns six million Tibetans."

For the millions who have signed petitions in favour of the Tibetan
leader, for the Nobel Committee which awarded him the Peace Prize in
1989, for the Western Governments which officially receive him, for all
those who demonstrate against the Olympic Games being held in
totalitarian China, the promotion of universal responsibility, justice
for all, respect of fundamental rights and democratic principles have
been the main motivations. In fact, these values have no boundary. It is
a positive sign for the future if humanity cares more and more for the
principles which, let us not forget, represent the highest aspirations
of eternal India.

If our 'global village' is to survive the next decades, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights is the first step to be implemented by all.
The next step would be a Declaration of Human Duties which will
hopefully soon be drafted.

We also tend to forget that an Olympic year is always a special year for
humanity. In reviving the ancient tradition of the Olympic Games, Baron
Pierre de Coubertin's first and foremost objective was to 'build men'
and not merely exhibit sporting prowess. The argument that the Olympics
is purely a sporting event is historically and ethically wrong.

For Coubertin, Olympism was a religion which would "adhere to an ideal
of superior life and aspire for perfection". He spoke of a quadrennial
'Human Spring'. What else than a 'human spring' are we witnessing today
across the world? The saddest aspect of the current situation is that
the people of China are not allowed to participate in the 'spring' of
human spirit.

We could go into the legalities of the Chinese occupation of Tibet or
the strategic implications of the recent riots in Lhasa and elsewhere
for China's neighbours, but the main issue seems to be that the spirit
of Olympism, represented by the Olympic Flame, should remain alive. The
monks in the streets of Tibet have set an example for all of us.
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