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7september2011katriNew Delhi, India: Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected leader of Tibetan people said the political authority that was devolved to him by the spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama carries the same legitimacy of political authority commanded by the institution of the Dalai Lama.

He was speaking at the opening of a two-day seminar titled "Tibet in the Aftermath of Devolution of Political Authority" organised by the Vivekananda International Foundation at its auditorium Tuesday morning.

Dr Sangay said there is no disconnect whatsoever after or before the devolution of political authority by His Holiness to an elected leadership. "His Holiness handed over to me the political leadership that he, at the age of 16, received from the regent, Lonchen Takra Rinpoche," he said, and added, "The previous Kalon Tripa, Prof Samdong Rinpoche, also handed over to me the 260-year-old seal [a symbol of the Kashag's legitimacy]."

Emphasising his role as the political leader of the Tibetan people, Dr Sangay said his job is to live up to the expectations of His Holiness, to move the Tibetan struggle forward by building on the legacy of the Tibetan elders and help Tibetan people stand on their own feet so the Tibetans could achieve a secular democratic society.

Reacting to some Chinese media labeling him as "illegal", Dr Sangay said during his 16 years at Harvard he had interacted with hundreds of Chinese students, intellectuals, and scholars at various conferences and that such experience has firmly established his belief in dialogue as the best way to resolve the issue of Tibet. "So labels are not going to change me or my belief in dialogue," he added.

Speaking on the importance of Tibet in India-China relations, Dr Sangay said Tibetans are not against good relations between the two Asian giants. "What we Tibetans are fighting for is are the same principles are enshrined in the Indian constitution and all democratic principles; even the holy scripture of Bhagvad Gita talks about dignity, freedom, equality, and justice," he said.

In his power point presentation, Dr Sangay briefed the audience on Tibet's cultural, religious and political history putting special emphasis on the distorted definition of Tibet's historical borders saying Chinese definition of Tibet excludes two major Tibetan provinces of Amdo where His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was born and Kham where Dr Sangay said his father was born. He gave a summary of continued problems faced by Tibetans under Chinese rule such as economic marginalisation, social exclusion, environmental destruction, religious repression, et al.

Highlighting the brief exile of the 13th Dalai Lama in India in 1910, Dr Sangay said Tibetans had successfully returned the 13th Dalai Lama to Tibet. "The challenges we face now remains the same [with the exile of the 14th Dalai Lama]; we have done it before and we can do it again," he added.

Calling himself a product of Indian subsidies, he said Tibetans owe a lot to India and Indian people for their refuge and continued support, adding, he grew up as a refugee in India and received school and college education all subsidised by Indian government. "I am a proud product of subsidies provided by the India government," Dr Sangay said.

Dr Ajit Doval, director of Vivekananda International Foundation, said Tibet issue must be seen through a larger perspective than mere strategic and political lens and added Tibet shares deep cultural and civilisational bond with India. Dr Doval said India cannot ignore the developments in Tibet under Chinese, emphasising that Tibetans are as important a shareholder as the Chinese in resolution of the Tibet issue. In this light, he said the Middle Way Approach of the Central Tibetan Administration holds the key as it considers and accommodates the interests of all shareholders: preserving Tibetan culture and civilization as well as safeguard Chinese security and territorial integrity.

Speaking at the seminar on the devolution of political authority by His Holiness the Dalai lama, Mr Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile said this historic step reflects the two-fold vision of His Holiness viz. strengthening and securing the exile Tibetan administration within and beyond the lifetime of the current Dalai Lama and revert to the times when the Dalai Lama institution only exercised spiritual authority. Secondly, His Holiness has always wanted to transform Tibetan society into a democratic polity.

Speaker Penpa Tsering released a comic book on His Holiness the Dalai Lama published by the India-Tibet Coordination Office at the seminar.

Dr Ravni Thakur, associate professor at Department of East Asian Studies at Delhi University spoke on the dialogue prospects between Tibetans and Chinese after devolution of Dalai Lama's political authority. Dr Abanti Bhattacharya, associate professor of East Asian Studies at Delhi University gave an overview of the status of Tibet in Asian geopolitics by tracing the entanglement of Tibet issue in the ganut of changing geopolitical realities since the times of British imperial rule in Asia. Dr Bhattacharya said the joint declarations India signed with China on accepting Tibet Autonomous Region as part People's Republic of China have diluted India's leverage on border talks with China esp. on security and water issues.

Prof Sujit Dutta who holds the Gandhi Chair of the Nelsaon Mandela Center for Peace and Conflict at Jamia Millia Islamia said although China takes its sovereignty over Tibet as granted, there is a question of legitimacy and historical facts that cannot be denied. Prof Dutta was speaking on China's approach to Tibetan issue.

Prof Madhu Bhalla at the Department of East Asian Studies at Delhi University speaking on India's approach to Tibetan issue said a rethink on Tibet policy needs to include questioning of the dichotomy of hardline Chinese rule in Tibet versus China's "soft power" and revisiting the 1954 agreement India signed with China as well as adopting a multilateral approach to the issue of fragile Tibetan ecology. Despite Chinese claims of modernisation and pumping huge amounts of money in Tibet, Prof Bhalla said the statistics show Tibet on the lowest rung of Chinese growth story in terms of GDP as well as Human Development Index including education. She called the continued use of orthodox Marxist terms in Chinese White Papers on Tibet even until 2010 anachronistic in the 21st century world.

Mrs Madhuri Santharam Sondhi, independent researcher and executive president of ML Sondhi Institute for Asia-pacific Affairs, spoke on the importance of Tibet in India-China relations. Veteran journalist Mr Vijay Kranti spoke on the Dalai Lama as an institution of civilisational and spiritual status and also on the myths and realities of Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule.

Prof Ngawang Samten, Vice Chancellor of Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, made a presentation on India-Tibet relations in cultural and spiritual perspective.

Prof Samten said during 11th and 12th century, even before it disappeared from India, Buddhism had well established its roots in Tibet giving examples of Tibetans travelling to India to study in ancient Indian monastic universities of Nalanda, Odantapuri, Takshila, et al and Tibetans receiving spiritual transmissions from Indian masters.

Mr Thubten Samphel, Secretary of Department of Information and International Relations of CTA, spoke on the Tibetan Art of Nonviolence emphasising how Tibetans are turning upside down Sun Tzu's military strategy of "defeating the enemy without fighting". Quoting Joseph H. Nye, the coiner of "soft power" concept, Mr Samphel said "outcomes are not merely shaped by whose army wins but also by whose story wins." And Tibetans are reaching out not only to the international community but also to Chinese people with their conviction in the power of human persuasion to tell their stories and seek justice.

Distinguished speakers for the second day of the seminar will shed light on Tibet's environment, human rights, military build-up in Tibet.

Vivekananda International Foundation is an independent, non-partisan institution that promotes quality research and in-depth studies and is a platform for dialogue and conflict resolution.

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