As of 1951 Tibet?a previously free country?has been occupied and plundered by China. To create a dialogue concerning the status of Tibet and its relationship to the world, a function was organised at Akbar Restaurant in New Jersey, USA, on May 17 under the auspices of Friends of India Society International (FISI). Dr Bhishma Agnihotri, former Ambassador-at-large of India and international president of FISI, was chief guest.
In his keynote speech, Dr Agnihotri referred to the Chinese carrying of the Olympic flame to the summit of Mount Everest as a message to the world that China'sresources, technology, and power are now supreme. He discussed several historical facts dating back 3000 years to a time when Tibet was a large, independent, and sovereign state and China a small province, which by virtue of its expansionist strategy has now become an imperialistic power. He reminded the audience of China's?demographic aggression? in the form of Han Chinese migration into Tibet, China'scultural oppression of Tibet by destroying thousands of monasteries over past several decades, and China'smilitary buildup in Tibet of medium-range missiles, which threatens India. Dr Agnihotri made a reference to a recent Time magazine report, which noted the creation of numerous dance halls and brothels on the main street of Lhasa. Finally, he lamented that India and the world community did very little for Tibet over the years, despite several attempts to initiate inquiries through the UN and other international agencies into violations of human rights in Tibet.
Dr Sudhir Parikh, a prominent community leader and winner of the prestigious Ellis Island award for distinguished immigrants, reminded the audience that His Holiness Dalai Lama is not seeking independence for Tibet, but autonomy, so that Tibetans can follow their religion based on teachings of Lord Gautam Buddha and Vedanta and continue their peace-loving, environmentally-friendly traditions with pride and dignity. He also cautioned Chinese not to squander the upcoming opportunity of dealing with the Dalai Lama. Shri Rajiv Malhotra, President of Infinity Foundation and an eminent philanthropist and scholar, revealed how China has cunningly devised a grand strategy directed at India. He argued that China is preparing for future resource wars over water by advancing territorial claims over Arunachal Pradesh through which passes the Brahmaputra, a river rising in eastern Tibet and supplying 40 per cent of India'sfresh water. He also highlighted the importance the Chinese attach to oil pipeline and highway construction through Tibet, which is a critical location in Chinese geostrategic planning. Shri Malhotra demanded concrete steps that India should initiate, including questioning China'scontrol over Tibet now that China has called the border between Tibet and India into doubt.
Professor Jagdish Vyas, an expert on Tibet and a distinguished Sinologist, declared that China is not a civilised state, but a country ruled by communists who assumed power by terrorising the Chinese people. He demanded that China accept reality, as suggested by the Dalai Lama, and immediately bring about a genuine autonomy for Tibet. He commended the Dalai Lama'speaceful effort over last 50 years to convince the world that China is a trouble-maker and predicted that China would soon engage in a misadventure with India, one reminiscent of the 1999 events in Kargil. He said that India should claim sovereignty over such Hindu shrines as Kailash Mansarovar.
Shri Tsering Palden, president of Tibetan Youth Congress, who was visibly emotional over Tibet'sfate, discussed the torture and killing of Tibetans. He claimed that the 40,000 members of the Tibetan Youth Congress, who are all over the world, are united in their desire to win freedom for Tibet and establish a shining Tibetan democracy, even though China claims to have destroyed Tibet as a nation. He cautioned the world community that Tibet'sfight for freedom is not for the benefit of Tibetans alone. Tibet, he argued, is being used as a dumping ground for China'snuclear waste, which is slowly seeping into the region'sfresh water reserves. He suggested that this disaster could be prevented if the world community recognises the threat posed by China'senvironmental policies in Tibet.
A lively question and answer session followed during which many members of the audience expressed their dismay over Chinese policies toward Tibet and urged other countries to support Tibet'sfreedom.
Shri Vivek Sinha, US North-East co-coordinator of FISI, explained the FISI'sobjectives. He said bringing together friends of India worldwide, understanding and safeguarding the interest of Indian diaspora, and addressing the discrimination experienced by the Indian diaspora in specific countries around the world are the prominent objectives of the organisation. In the end, a resolution was adopted unanimously. The resolution said the US must take a principled stand along with India on aiding Tibet'squest for freedom, rather than continue to thwart their peaceful efforts, which is inconsistent with core American values of democracy, freedom and religious tolerance.