Well, the U.S. is at it again. Should the comprehensive immigration bill that is currently up for a vote in the U.S. Congress pass , American immigration policy will be substantially altered. Among the provisions included in the bill stands a rule whereby 5000 Tibetans living in Nepal and India will be given visas to the United States.
Many of you may remember, during the reign of George W. Bush, the same policy was proposed; and despite reports to the contrary, many Tibetans left Nepal under its provisions. Today, with 120 Tibetans burned to death and the Bharkor flattened, one has to wonder if there was any level of long-term thinking behind these policies. For that matter, did they even have any tangible short-term benefits for Tibetans? Things are getting worse in Tibet, not better, so what is the point of offering these 5000 U.S. visas now when they had no measurable effect in the past?
To blogdai, it means that the U.S. is stumped for answers on the Tibetan issue and is throwing in the towel once again. Forget real solutions, let's just offer American visas for a chosen 5000 Tibetans; how arrogant. Devoid of creative, or even pragmatic thinking, U.S. Tibetan policy conjurers, this time under the proprietary and possessive maternalism of Senator Dianne Feinstein, are content to throw up their hands and call for an air-lift.
This does not even represent a band-aid solution to the Tibetan struggle, in fact, it very well might be rubbing salt in the wound on many levels:
1. The U.S. is telling the Tibetan community that the solution to their problems does not lay in either obtaining some form of citizenship or working towards self-determination. It's time for your rich benefactor to step in and save you. If that is the only thing the U.S. can come up with then where are the Syrian visas? The Sudanese? No, this is theater---a display. The U.S. is trying to show the world that they represent a clear choice away from Chinese repression; establish the contrasts; black vs. white. Once again, it's not about helping Tibetans, it's about trumpeting one political ideology over another.
2. The tokenism of this effort creates a climate of despair. What of those wishing for visas who are unable to obtain? The vast majority of Tibetans in Nepal and India will not get U.S. visas. What will they be left to think of those who did? Did they miss the "lifeboat?" Is this the extent of the United States's substantive efforts on their behalf? Forget direct "educational" aid and agriculture subsidies. The Tibetans don't want any more charity; they want a country, or at least an identity. Pulling them out of their lives on the assumption that being in the U.S. must ultimately be an improvement takes away all of that. Tibetans know that those who have left under such programs in the past have never returned. They certainly haven't pooled their new American resources and eliminated Tibetan suffering as was the original intent of the 2005 visa proposal. blogdai's Tibetan friends often tell of being in Dharamsala and witnessing the young Tibetan men combing an flaunting their long black hair in hope of landing a foreign girl. "This is my ticket out of here," one boy said as he fluffed his mane. A lot of Tibetans just want to just leave. U.S. visas give no hope to Tibetans; they just give a quick way out--the Tibetans themselves will tell you this.
3. Does the U.S. think that China will just sit back and let this happen? After the Bush visa effort, China stepped up its campaign of repression against Tibetans in Nepal. The government was strong-armed, and the borders were closed more frequently and without apparent reason. China is even more assertive these days and is especially keen on shutting down Tibetan activity in Nepal. Thank the International Campaign for Tibet and the rest of the Tibet lobby for stirring up this hornets' nest to its current frenzy, but nevertheless, China is almost waiting
for the U.S. to pull a move like this so that they can loudly and publicly assert their view of the situation and make life miserable for both Tibetans and Nepalis in Nepal.
4. Forget India for the time being. As it was in 2005, this new visa program is aimed squarely at Nepal. China has been and will continue to increase its influence in our fair kingdom--that is our current reality. China does this only to keep Tibetans in check--that is the other reality. U.S. visa proposals do nothing but increase the pretexts China uses to obtain its Nepal footholds. When the U.S. starts messing with Tibetans it gives China an excuse to say: "not in my backyard, Yank."
Back in 2005, Mary Beth Markey, then Director of the International Campaign for Tibet said in perfect irony:
"This (visa) programme should help mitigate some problems of Tibetan refugees in Nepal where, at this time, vulnerabilities and needs are most pronounced."
Little did she contemplate that it would be a contributing cause to these problems.
What will happen
A less-assertive China began to openly retaliate against Nepal after the Bush proposal. Expect more border closings and the most repressive treatment of Tibetans to-date in Nepal now that China feels like it has the right to be a world leader. Resettlement of Tibetans proceeded reasonably for a bit after it was first proposed in 2005--blogdai participated in one such sponsorship-- but the U.S. now has to beg Nepal to give Tibetans an exit visa--the pressure from China is too great. Will Nepal-hating congressman Frank Wolf start his threat parade again? Will Nepal be once-again held hostage to the dictates of rogue U.S. government officials if it does not comply with these visa requests? Worse, will the U.S. again have egg on its face after being caught in the midst of a phony Tibetan visa scam?
If the Chinese were smart, they'd realize that the U.S. is fractionating the Tibetan diaspora and let this transfer happen without a whimper. They should realize the divisions and resentments this will cause among Tibetans. C'mon, 5000 "one-time-only" visas? A tantalizing glimmer of cheap hope dashed as quickly as the seats are filled--thanks Yanks! So, does the U.S. think they are creating greater unity among Tibetans by pulling them out of their struggle a few at a time? Hardly. No shared struggle equals no unity. Keep it up, U.S. and watch the Tibetan community in Nepal and India collapse into total Western dependency.
Mostly, from a Tibetan perspective, nothing will happen. The lucky few given visas will bail out of the region and the remaining Tibetans will be left to suffer. Immolations will continue, and China will persist with, and perhaps increase its relentless path towards nullifying Tibetan culture.
The Big Point
No Tibetan solution will ever come from the U.S.: China will see to it. Every time the U.S. opens its mouth about the issue, Tibetans ultimately suffer. The U.S. needs to learn to shut up----but good luck trying to tell them this.
The "Free Tibet" movement has been stagnant for years and is currently on death's door--the U.S. government continues to keep it there. People much smarter than blogdai are now crying quite loudly for the U.S. to step aside and let more effective and engaged forces prevail... Indian forces.
For the sake of Tibetans and Tibetan culture, let's hope these cries are heeded.