‘Others Talked, He Acted’: India’s Congress Party Lauds Trump’s New Tibet Bill on Dalai Lama, Consulate in Lhasa

The Tibetan Policy and Support Act, 2020 replaces the George Bush-era Tibetan Policy Act of 2002. While Bush distanced himself from the 2002 act fearing its implications on US-China relations, President Trump’s law calls for sanctions against Chinese officials found interfering in choosing the Dalai Lama’s successor.

Senior Indian parliamentarian and Congress Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi has applauded the signing of the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, 2020, which calls for retaliatory sanctions on Chinese officials involved in attempting to choose the successor of the current Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

On its part, Beijing says that the process of choosing the successor to the Dalai Lama “must comply” with Chinese law.

​Singhvi was among hundreds of Indian social media users who have backed the new Tibet Bill, which was signed into law by US President Donald Trump on Sunday.

​The Tibetan Policy and Support Act, 2020 also calls for the setting-up of a new US consulate in Lhasa, the capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The new bill calls on the US secretary of state to not authorise any new Chinese consulate in the US until Beijing concedes to the demand of letting Washington establish a consulate in TAR. The new law also sets aside $6 million for the welfare of Tibetans in India, on top of $8 million for Tibetans in China.

The open support for the new Tibet-related law by Singhvi is significant as New Delhi doesn’t officially recognise Tibet’s government-in-exile, in line with its stated respect for the One-China Policy.

However, voices of dissent within India’s political establishment over the federal government’s continued support for One China Policy have become bolder amid the ongoing border standoff between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the eastern Ladakh region.

A tweet by the governing Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) leader Ram Madhav on his September visit to the home of a Tibetan-origin soldier who reportedly died in a mine blast while patrolling the China border in Ladakh was later taken down.

Similarly, another social media post by Leader of Opposition in India’s lower house (Lok Sabha) Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in May, calling upon the Narendra Modi government to recognise Taiwan, was also taken down. Senior Congress leader and former federal minister Anand Sharma clarified later that Congress very much recognised the “One China Policy” and that Choudhury’s remarks didn’t reflect the official line of the Congress Party.

The exiled Tibetan government has been headquartered in the north Indian town of Dharamshala since 1959, when the current Dalai Lama and his followers fled a “crackdown” by Chinese authorities in the wake of a Tibetan uprising.

‘Firmly Oppose’ the US Act, Says China

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has construed the new US legislation as “interference” in its internal matters, as it pointed out on Monday that even the current Dalai Lama was chosen in accordance with rituals of Tibetan Buddhism as well as Chinese law.

“The institution of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama has been in existence for several hundred years. The 14th Dalai Lama himself was found and recognised following religious rituals and historical conventions, and his succession was approved by the then central government”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Monday.

“We urge the US side to stop exploiting relevant issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs, and take no actions to implement articles in the Act that target China and hurt China’s interests, so as to avoid further damaging China-US cooperation and long-term development of bilateral relationship”, the Chinese official also stated.

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