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Dalai Lama WikiLeak: Climate Change More Important Than Independence Now

In a WikiLeaked document, conversations between the Dalai Lama and the U.S. Ambassador to India indicate that the environment is to take precedence over independence, signaling a massive policy change for China and the region.

Assange and Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama wants to shift the global dialogue surrounding Tibet and its independence to one that focuses on climate change in the Himalayas instead, according to a conversation noted in a leaked cable on WikiLeaks between the U.S. ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, and the Dalai Lama, as reported by the Asia Times Online.

"The political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau. Melting glaciers, deforestation, and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that 'cannot wait,' but the Tibetans could wait five to 10 years for a political solution," said the Dalai Lama.

The issue of climate change in the Himalayas is grave and has prompted the Nepali Cabinet to hold meetings at Everest Base Camp to raise awareness and numerous environmental groups have drawn attention to the issue by staging Everest trash cleanups.

But beyond the issue of climate change, changing the focus of any dialogue on Tibet represents a massive change on the part of the exiled Tibetan government, one that is sometimes seen as soft and is unwelcome by hard-line Tibet activists.

"The Dalai Lama requested the United States consider engaging China on environmental issues in Tibet," said the memo. And "the Dalai Lama's message may signal a broader shift in strategy to reframe the Tibet issue as an environmental concern," said Roemer.

Regarding Tibetans' stance on China and their energy policies—they have made their criticisms known before in previous pleas to the United Nations.

"Now the international pressure on Beijing will increase, and the international community will convince Chinese leaders that it is in China's own interest to develop a plan which would enrich the Chinese people and ensure sustainability, but does not damage China's environment," said the exiled Tibetan government spokesman, Samphel Thupten.

But the way forward depends on which exiled Tibetan entity you ask—moderate or radical.

"Our concern is its political value. Climate change in Tibet affects all of Asia. Then of course, the global climate campaigners will join us to pressure China. Climate is a way to keep the issue of Tibet at a global level and gain us more supporters," said Tibetan Youth Congress joint secretary, Tenzin Norsang.

Follow me, Jenara Nerenberg, on Twitter.

[Image: Antoine Taveneaux]

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