Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the political leader of the Tibetan people, today joined several scholars at the prestigious Delhi University in the heart of the Indian capital to discuss the health of the Tibetan Plateau and its impact on the rest of Asia.
Sikyong Dr Sangay delivered the keynote address at the one-day conference titled, ‘Only One Tibet to Quench Asia’s Growing Thirst’, organised by the Tibet Policy Institute in collaboration with the Department of East Asian Studies, Delhi University and the Foundation for Non-Violent Alternatives.
Mr Thubten Samphel, the director of TPI, in his inaugural address thanked Sikyong Dr Sangay for presiding over the conference and expressed gratitude to Prof. Sreemati Chakrabarti, Head of the
Department of East Asian Studies, Delhi University for co-hosting and lending the prestige of the Department to the conference.
In his remarks Mr Samphel said the purpose of the conference is to take an unbiased look into the health of the Tibetan Plateauand address the concerns over the sustainability of the Plateau’s fragile ecosystem.
“Research findings have suggested that China’s rampant development activities on the Tibetan Plateau, especially it’s damming and diversion schemes of Tibetan rivers, will have a catastrophic effect on the rest of Asia,” Mr Samphel said.
The vast Tibetan Plateau is the source of ten of Asia’s major river systems including the Brahmaputra, Indus, Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, and Salween. These rivers provide fresh water and sustain life for some of the world’s most populated nations like India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Prof. Sreemati Chakrabarti in her welcome address said that her Department was honoured to be a part of an event “completely devoted to Tibet” while expressinghope for similar collaborations in the future.
She noted thatit was now high time for Tibet studies to grow and develop in India. “In this process if the Department of East Asian Studies could makes even a tiny contribution, it will be a mater of great satisfaction for us,” Prof. Chakrabarti added.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, introducing himself as a former student of Delhi University, said that it was a matter of great honour and pride to see DU, especially the Department of East Asian Studies, hosting an event on Tibet.
“Tibet is an often-avoided topic in academic circles as China doesn’t want to hear debate on three T’s – Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen,” Sikyong Dr Sangay said. “It is appropriate that DU, the most prestigious university in India, is hosting this important conference on Tibet.”
The Tibetan leader explained that the Tibet issue is not simply a concern for the six million Tibetans but has larger implications for a great number of people who have a direct stake. He remarked that India and China along with other riparian countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh have almost a billion people facing fresh water scarcity, spawning a conflicting and tense situation.
“Some experts say that earlier wars were fought over land, today’s wars are fought over oil and soon wars will be fought over water,” he noted.
Speaking on Beijing’s rampant dam building on Tibetan rivers, Sikyong Dr Sangay observed that China has some of the biggest and baddest dams in the world aimed at controlling the flow of water.
“China could release water when it is not needed and China could stop when needed. That control has made water a strategic weapon for the Chinese Government,” he pointed out.
Censuring China for not signing the 1997 UNConvention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, the Tibetan leader said that China has refused to abide by any international norm while “sitting on top of Tibet with all this vast reserve of water”.
Providing a solution in the face of challenges thrown by China, Sikyong Dr Sangay proposed that the best way forward is to restore the ancient assignment of Tibetans as the “guardians and stewards” of the Tibetan Plateau.
“Tibetans have always respected harmonious co-existence between the environment, economy and society. We have always respected the natural water flow and we have always shared water for freewith the rest of Asia,” he added.
The morning session of the conference saw Prof. Madhu Bhalla, (Retd), Dept. of East Asian Studies, Delhi University speak on the topic ‘Critical Geo-politics and the Idea of Tibet’ along with Prof. Milap Chand Sharma, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University who deliberated on the topic, ‘Glacial Retreat on the Tibetan Plateau & its Impact on the Indian Subcontinent’ and Zamlha Tempa Gyaltsen, Research Fellow, the Tibet Policy Institute who spoke on the topic, ‘Why Tibetan Plateau Matters’.
The afternoon session saw discussion by Claude Arpi, Author, on the topic, ‘Chinese Tourism in Tibet & the Environmental Impacts for Tibet & the Indian subcontinent,’ and by Lobsang Yangtso, Ph.D student, JNU on ‘Damming of the Brahmaputra River in Tibet.’
The conference concluded with remarks from Prof. Chanda Mahanta, IIT Guwahati and Tsering Yangkey, Deputy Director of the Tibet Policy Institute delivering the vote of thanks.