Dalai Lama Urges Tibetan Exiles to Be Cautious

By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 24, 2008

DHARMSALA, India, Nov. 23 -- With the future of his movement at a crossroads, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, warned Sunday of dangers if Tibetan political leaders are not cautious in their strategy toward China.

"In the next 20 years, we must be careful in our actions and planning," he said in a lengthy speech. "Otherwise there is great danger to the Tibetan community."

The Dalai Lama said it might be premature to cut off ties with China, which was among the proposals made at a week-long meeting of 600 of his countrymen at the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile in this North Indian town.

"Wait a month" and "then we'll see" whether the Tibetan side will seek future contacts, the Dalai Lama told journalists Sunday morning at a news conference at his hilltop Namgyal Monastery after the meeting ended.

With the Tibetan movement seeking fresh ideas at the meeting, he stepped back from offering alternatives to his "middle way" approach, which seeks autonomy and compromise with China. Exiled leaders said they might push for full independence if China refuses to grant autonomy soon.

"Silence. No answer, no comment," the Dalai Lama said in response to a question about alternative road maps for his Himalayan homeland. "It's up to the people."

The Dalai Lama convened the unprecedented meeting of Tibetans from around the world to discuss the way forward for Tibet, which has struggled against Chinese rule for six decades.

He earlier said that he was frustrated by eight rounds of failed talks with China. But at the news conference, the 73-year-old appeared to be taking pains to put the decision-making power into Tibetans' hands. Analysts said the charismatic leader seemed to be trying to ready the community that reveres him for his eventual retirement.

"It is my moral responsibility until my death to work for the Tibetan cause," the Dalai Lama said. But he made it clear that he is semi-retired as a political leader.

"All major decisions are in his hand," he said, pointing to Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile. "I am like senior adviser."

Although he said at the news conference that he was "full of energy" after his recent gallbladder surgery, he added that "in the next 10 years, I will be 83. In 20 years, I will be 93."

"I am a human being, and I also have human rights," said the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company