Even before reading this posting some may take issue with the term “diplomatic corps” for without having a “sovereign status” how can there be such Tibetan officials?
However, there are more than a dozen or so Tibetan officials posted by Dharamsala in different parts of the world who, despite not having any status under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, still perform almost all of the five sub-clauses under Article 1 of the convention relating to “functions of a diplomatic mission.”
The five sub-clauses are:
(a) representing the sending State in the receiving State;
(b) protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State
and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law;
(c) negotiating with the Government of the receiving State;
(d) ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the
receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State;
(e) promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations.
I was reminded of this upon reading today’s news about the meeting of the heads of Offices of Tibet (as most of these Tibetan offices outside of India are called) in Dharamsala today.
The news said, “The meeting’s agenda includes how to enhance better coordination among the offices of Tibet, promotion of Tibetan religion and culture and follow up action on the Chinese-Tibetan conference held in Geneva in August this year.” It will be interesting to see the outcome of discussions on these issues as many eyes, particularly that of Beijing, would be focused on them. Beijing would no doubt be interested in how the Chinese outreach aspect of the issue will be followed up.
Be that as it may, many of these officials run offices that have three or four staff members only, but building on the goodwill that is there (primarily on account of the historical international interest in exotic Tibet, the very many visits of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and the continued plight of the Tibetans in Tibet) in all the countries they are posted in these individuals promote the brand image of Tibet, as Tibetans see it. In general, I know for sure that many diplomats of countries that have some sort of relations with the Tibetan people are often amazed at the way these Offices of Tibet are able to get things done, whether with the government or the civil society of their host countries.
But it is not the time to rest on our laurels. One additional challenge to these officials today is China’s offensive international strategy on Tibet. Today, the Chinese Government is also trying to get some space in the international arena to their version of Tibet. Thus, while in the past any report of a “Tibetan delegation” or “Tibetan festival” or even “Tibetan performance” in any country could be safely assumed to be from the Tibetan exile community, today there is a 50-50 chance that these could be Tibetans no doubt, but sent by the Chinese authorities. Obviously, these Tibetan brethren do not have any leeway but to represent the wishes of the political leadership in China.
During one of his talks in Vancouver, Canada, recently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasized the need for people to adapt to the reality of the situation, to formulate an appropriate approach, and to act accordingly. That needs to be the mantra not only of the Tibetan diplomatic corps, but also of all people concerned with Tibet in general.