The Global Times, China’s English language mouthpiece, published an article on April 27, 2020 entitled “Exiled Tibetans eye to return to China for fear of virus“. It distorted the current status of exile Tibetans living in India and Nepal during the coronavirus crisis.
The recently published article attempts to undermine the Indian public healthcare system by suggesting that exile Tibetans wish to return to Tibet because of accelerating coronavirus crisis in India. The report is an attempt to exert China’s hugger-mugger geopolitical strategy for pulling India timely into its own power equation when India blocked China’s FDI at the time of coronavirus pandemic.
The said article is attributed to the personal accounts of Liu Yinghua’s India visit and Yangzom’s supposed struggle in Nepal. Based on these two individual’s personal accounts, the Global Times has falsely reported the holistic situation of exile Tibetans in India and Nepal. Moreover, the sources of the report have no actual facts and figures. In fact, the two witnesses of the report are based on falsity and duplicity.
The Global Times picked the case of 69-year old deceased Mr Tenzin Choephel’s positive result of COVID-19 as an evidence to falsely show the dented public health system in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. However, on the contrary, none of Tibetan residents in South Asia have been infected with coronavirus so far. The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and its agencies have gone one step ahead in terms of preventive measures of coronavirus in Tibetan communities across India, Nepal and Bhutan since its outbreak in South Asia. Indian public appreciate CTA’s quick response and initiatives for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Tibetan communities in India.
Dharamsala is the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It is also considered the exile Tibetan capital of the world, where the Central Tibetan Administration is established. Liu Yinghua, a prime witness of the Global Times’ report stated that “Dharamshala also has a western hospital with about 20 to 30 beds and can hardly handle urgent or severe patients”. And also, an anonymous source revealed that “we saw small clinics in Dharamshala, both quite shabby. People there do not have a habit of hygiene yet”. These disparaging statements do not match the actual health infrastructure developments and facilities in Dharamshala.
Dharamshala is the second largest city in Himachal Pradesh, which is currently under the Smart City Mission Project, the Government of India. According to assessment of liveability indices of ministry of urban development, the Government of India, Dharamshala city is listed as one of the most liveable cities in India. Today, it is one of the most popular Himalayan hill stations in India for world-wild tourists, travellers, artists, academicians, spiritualists and Tibetologists. They freely enjoy its fresh air, clean water and the majestic view of snow-capped mountains.
In terms of health infrastructures and facilities, Dharamshala city has sufficient health services in accordance with its demographic size. Both Zonal Hospital and Government Medical College at Tanda give free medical services and facilities to the people. As per 2015 demographic survey done by Dharamshala Nagar Nigam, Dharamshala city’s population is 53543.
With the reference to Census of India 2011, “the city has one Zonal Hospital with an In -patient capacity of 300 beds, one Hospital Alternative Medicine with capacity of 20 beds, one Dispensary/Health Centre, one Family Welfare Centre, one Maternity and Child Welfare Centre, one Maternity Home, one T.B. Hospital/ Clinic, one Nursing Home, one Veterinary Hospital and a Mobile Health Clinic”. The census has not included Dr. Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College at Tanda and rest of private hospitals in the city.
According to official website of Delek Hospital, a hospital run by the Central Tibetan Administration itself has “an In-Patient capacity of 45 beds with other facilities available within the in- Patient service include an operating theatre for relatively simple procedures, a delivery room, ECG facility, cardiac monitoring and a wide range of laboratory services”.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, China attempts to wreck the Indo-Tibet friendship by trying to mesh Tibetans into China’s geopolitical ambitions in India and Nepal. The fact is that Tibetans across South Asia always feel a sense of gratitude towards their host nations. For example, the Central Tibetan Administration and Tibetan public across the world marked 2018 as the year of “Thank You India”
Under the benevolent guidance of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, exiled Tibetans have no livelihood problems, and their relationship with host countries are robust. Tibetans have been exiled for 61 years since China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1951. The ultimate goal of the exiled Tibetans is to happily return to Tibet when China frees Tibet.
*Tsewang Dorji is a visiting fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. He is a Ph.D scholar from Madras University with the research interest on India-China Relations. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.