Cablegate: Tibetan Youth See Potholes in the Middle Path -
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHVC
DE RUEHNE #1795/01 1821026
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301026Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2444
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 1746
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 2425
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
Monday, 30 June 2008, 10:26
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 001795
EO 12958 DECL: 06/30/2018
TAGS PGOV, PREL, PREF, PHUM, SOCI, CH, IN
SUBJECT: TIBETAN YOUTH SEE POTHOLES IN THE MIDDLE PATH -
PART 1 OF A STATUS REPORT ON TIBETAN REFUGEES IN INDIA
REF: A. NEW DELHI 1483 B. NEW DELHI 3617 C. NEW DELHI 1476
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Classified By: Acting PolCouns Joel Ehrendreich for Reasons 1.4 (B and D).
1. (C) Summary. A May visit to six Tibetan settlements across north and northeastern India underscores concerns that frustrated and dissatisfied Tibetan youth and concurrent Indian separatist movements could pose serious problems for the future viability of Tibetan settlements. A widening generational divide finds Tibetan leaders unable to resolve growing dissatisfaction among younger Tibetans, led by the influential Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). Settlement leaders in West Bengal reluctantly discussed intimidation and extortion of Tibetans by Indian separatist movements, feebly dismissing the threats as “neighborly” interactions. Tibetan participation in events organized by pro-Gorkaland radicals -- whether forced or not -- could jeopardize relations between the Tibetan community and their Indian hosts. The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) will need to address these issues or the Government of India (GOI) may address them instead. End Summary.
2. (SBU) This is the first in a three-part series assessing the Tibetan refugee situation in India. Kathmandu’s Regional Refugee Coordinator, New Delhi PolOff and Kolkata POL FSN visited New Delhi, Dharamsala and remote Tibetan settlements in West Bengal, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. These reports distill two weeks of meetings with the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), refugee reception centers, GOI and CTA administered schools, settlement officers, monastery officials, health workers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), and GOI liaisons with the Tibetan settlements. New Delhi PolOffs subsequently met with Delhi-based human rights activists. The first cable of this series, Part I, details increasing dissatisfaction among Tibetan youth and the potential consequences for the Tibetan community in India; Part II examines the settlements’ relations with neighboring local populations and Indian separatist movements in West Bengal and the Northeast; and Part III assesses the settlements’ socio-economic situation. This three-part series reflects collaboration between Embassy New Delhi, Consulate Kolkata and Embassy Kathmandu.
TYC’s “Imprudent” Strategy
3. (SBU) With few professional opportunities and growing impatience with the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way,” young Tibetans expressed frustration with their future prospects. These frustrations are articulated regularly by the TYC, which advocates complete independence from People’s Republic of China (PRC). The TYC has 30,000 members in 83 chapters worldwide. The chapters vary widely in their degrees of organization and activism, with the chapters in New Delhi, Kathmandu, and some western capitals constituting a well-organized and influential force. The TYC’s mission statement (posted online) declares that one of its main objectives is “to struggle for the rightful independence of Tibet even at the cost of one’s life.” Accordingly, while the group pledges support to the Dalai Lama, its published objectives conflict with the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way, which promotes Tibetan autonomy within the PRC. The TYC has coordinated the most dramatic anti-China protests, including scaling the walls of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi four times in the past eight months (October 12,2007 and March 12, March 21, and April 21 in 2008) and mobilizing over 25,000 protesters to converge upon the capital in August 2007 (Reftels). XXXXXXXXXXXX emphasized that the group’s handbook instructs members “never to raise a fist” and explained that the activities are designed only to embarrass India’s northern neighbor. The TYC is proud that it has succeeded in attracting Chinese ire -- revealing that China feels threatened by the TYC. XXXXXXXXXXXX also emphasized the TYC’s other role -- that of a “CTA watchdog,” promoting democratization, monitoring the socio-economic situation in the settlements, and directing CTA attention to vulnerable communities. With evident self-satisfaction, he noted that over the past decade, the TYC had parted ways with the CTA, comparing the relationship to a parent (CTA) who cannot come to terms with the child’s (TYC) maturation.
4. (C) Older Tibetan leaders regard the TYC’s activities as
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imprudent. XXXXXXXXXXXX worries that if Tibet’s status is not resolved during the Dalai Lama’s lifetime, the youth movement could become “more radical and dangerous” and predicted that “the debate over future strategy could fracture the Tibetan community.” XXXXXXXXXXXX fears that the TYC is escalating radicalization of the Tibetan youth and that TYC leadership XXXXXXXXXXXX is purposefully antagonizing the GOI in an effort to garner international media attention. After the TYC-coordinated storming of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, the PRC has increased pressure on the GOI to control the Tibetan refugee population. The GOI responded by restricting settlement activity in several states and increasing the rates of arrests and detentions of Tibetan activists (Reftels). (Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX End Comment.)
5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX dismissed the potential consequences of irritating the GOI, which has tolerated most demonstrations, arguing that supporters praise the TYC’s measures. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that the Dalai Lama’s moderate strategy has failed to produce results over the past five decades. (Note: Independent of these site visits, human rights activist XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOffs that the Indian Ministry of Defense unofficially backs the TYC and is pleased with the opportunity to humiliate the Chinese government. XXXXXXXXXXXX disclosed that TYC leaders XXXXXXXXXXXX “camped out” in his NGO’s office during the protests in August 2007. He also expressed concern that the TYC may push the GOI too far and advised CENTREX members to use caution. End Note.)
Few Options Open
6. (SBU) Unfortunately, life in the settlements offers relatively few options for making a living. Older Tibetans in every settlement visited consistently complained that the younger generation will move to urban areas or the west, leaving Tibetan communities populated by children and the elderly. Programs in the settlements focus principally on traditional Tibetan handicrafts, organic farming, and tailoring - options that offer relatively low wages and little possibility for a brighter future. Tibetan students complete high school in India and look towards higher education, but funding is scarce and employment prospects are grim. While Tibetans enjoy a relatively privileged refugee status, Indian law bars them from most employment opportunities and from purchasing property. Even top graduates who find a placement in the CTA only eke out a living. One young professional confided that her CTA salary is a paltry 1,400 USD per year. Several settlement officers complained that the young, educated Tibetans prefer emigrating to learning the traditional crafts, leading elders to fear that Tibetan culture may die out with this generation. (Comment: Embassy Kathmandu Refcoord spoke to the Dalai Lama’s special envoy Lodi Gyari on June 16 about the frustrating lack of opportunities for youth in the settlements. He readily acknowledged that this was one of the most serious concerns facing the CTA. He said that the CTA has been actively seeking alternatives and would welcome international assistance to that end. End Comment)
7. (C) In Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, Tibetan youth take advantage of one career option - the Special Frontier Force (SFF). Seven SFF units, based in Chakrata, Uttarkhand form a special division of the Indian army composed solely of Tibetans. The GOI entrusts SFF to protect its borders, stationing Tibetans along the border with China and in Ladakh. The Tibetans can only attain the rank of junior officer and earn a meager salary compared to their Indian counterparts. Yet, most Tibetan men in northeastern India join the SFF. In Gangtok, the Welfare Officer noted that the majority of Tibetan men work for the SFF; and in Ravangla, 90% of the Tibetan families have at least one family member serving. In Miao, about 350 of the settlement’s youth serve in the SFF.
8. (SBU) Tibetan leaders expressed concern over future
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options for the youth, but have yet to successfully formulate a strategy. XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that the CTA plans to educate and empower the youth, yet neither he (nor any other community leader) could specify any new programs to achieve this goal. Miao’s settlement officer, incidentally the most dynamic leader among those interviewed, reported that the sole takeaway from a conference dedicated to the generational divide was that the CTA organize more “tea parties” to speak informally with younger Tibetans. The leaders are genuinely distressed about the younger generation and recognize that they must concentrate on alternative income strategies; however, they may need -- and have said they would welcome -- outside assistance to create more diverse opportunities beyond traditional Tibetan crafts and agriculture.
Comment - Tibetans Concerned, but No New Strategies
9. (C) Tibetan leaders in India understand the gravity of the youths’ growing frustration, yet thus far they have not been able to produce a strategy to counter the youth’s growing impatience politically, with Middle Way moderates, and limited economic prospects. Many Tibetans interviewed expressed concern that if there is no movement to resolve the Tibetans’ long exile and if economic opportunities likewise remain stagnant, frustration could propel Tibetan youths toward more radical actions. End Comment. DAVISON