(AFP) – Apr 26, 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — As the Dalai Lama reflected Sunday on a surprise Chinese offer to resume talks, experts cautioned that Beijing may be looking more toward salvaging the Olympic Games than meaningful dialogue.
The Tibetan spiritual leader recognised as much, saying as he returned this weekend to his exile home in India that while "talk is good," a meeting aimed merely at appeasing international opinion would be "meaningless."
He outlined what he was seeking: "serious discussions about how to reduce Tibetan resentment and a thorough discussion" of the problems in Tibet.
China's talks offer is a sign Beijing feels it must respond to the intense global pressure over its crackdown in the remote Himalayan region after last month's deadly anti-Chinese riots, analysts agree.
But they warn that China is more concerned about avoiding a possible Games boycott and ending the embarrassing pro-Tibet protests that have disrupted the Olympic torch's round-the-world journey toward Beijing.
"The Chinese haven't made any concession," said Brahma Chellaney an analyst at the New Delhi-based Centre for Strategic Studies thinktank.
"Their primary interest is to see the Olympics conclude" successfully.
China has held six rounds of inconclusive talks with special envoys of the Dalai Lama since 2002. Experts do not believe a new round is likely to yield any more gains for Tibetans.
"The Chinese government is not sincere or else something would have come of the six rounds held so far," said Srikanth Kondapalli, associate professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
"The latest offer of talks is nothing new," Kondapalli added.
"What is new is the pressure mounted on China with Tibetan protests, which have unnerved them. The Olympics were supposed to be a coming out party for China in terms of its rise, but now many athletes and leaders are thinking of boycotting the Games."
The Tibet protests broke out in the regional capital Lhasa and appeared to target Han Chinese who have been encouraged to migrate to the region.
Initially taken by surprise, Chinese authorities launched a crackdown that exiled Tibetan leaders say left more than 150 people dead. Beijing says no one died as it restored order but that Tibetan rioters killed 20.
It ignited protests that, notably in London and Paris, severely disrupted the ambitious torch relay for a Games that Beijing had hoped would underline its growing status on the world stage.
"This outcome is a victory of the concerted pressure on the Chinese," said Sukh Deo Muni, senior visiting fellow at the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
"They don't want these pressures to spoil their Olympic parade."
The Dalai Lama has been persistent but soft-spoken in his rhetoric, urging dialogue while denouncing violence, pushing for autonomy not independence, and saying he supports Beijing hosting the Olympics.
"They really deserve" the Olympics, the 72-year-old spiritual leader said earlier this month. "In spite of the unfortunate events in Tibet, my position has not changed."
Beijing depicts him as someone bent on independence, sabotaging religious order and fomenting unrest -- charges renewed in weekend newspaper editorials despite the offer of talks.
"The Tibetans have achieved a tactical success in pressuring the Chinese to agree to talks," Kondapalli added, "but there is no way that Tibetans can get autonomy."
Worse, he told AFP, "it's a strategic loss for Tibet, as the divide between Han Chinese and Tibetans will only grow."
Still, the talks offer was broadly welcomed around the world as at least a step forward, and Chellaney, of New Delhi's Centre for Strategic Studies, said it would keep Tibet in the spotlight.
"Everything they have done has boomeranged," he said.
"Who would have thought two months ago that Tibet would be at the centre of international attention?"
He said the outpouring of Tibetan anger had surprised Beijing, and unless there was a genuine reconciliation process, the sensitive issue "will come to haunt" Beijing.
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