‘Tibet to benefit economically within China’

Washington, November 14:

The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, said yesterday that the Himalayan kingdom should remain within China for the sake of the territory’s economic development. But the 70-year-old leader said the Tibetan people themselves would have to determine their future if China continued to deny them ‘meaningful’ autonomy. “If Chinese government provides us meaningful autonomy, self law, then it is in our own interest to remain within the People’s Republic of China,” said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since he fled Chinese troops in 1959, basing his government-in-exile in the northern Indian hilltop town of Dharamsala.

“As far as economic development is concerned, we’ll get immense benefit” if Tibet remained as part of China, he told a 16,000 strong gathering in Washington, where he is on 10-day long visit that included talks with US president George W Bush. “Tibet is economically backward although spiritually highly advanced. But spiritual strength alone cannot fill our stomach. So we need economic development,” the Dalai Lama said, “If this approach should fail, then of course it is up to the Tibetan people — I’m going to ask the Tibetan people what to do.”

Beijing formally established a Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1965 but the Dalai Lama has said there is no genuine autonomy and has been waging a non-violent campaign to press China to provide greater rights for his six million people. The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Laureatte, said that “ultimately the Tibetan people — not me — would decide.” A random survey in Tibet several years ago showed the people wanted to remain within China but demanded genuine autonomy, he said.