Playing games with Tibet
There is a deafening silence on the part of the Sri Lanka Government over the current outbreak of violence in Tibet.
This is understandable to a point, given the fact that though Tibet is a Buddhist Kingdom, a theocracy almost akin to the Vatican, China, which stands accused of repression of the Tibetan people, is a friend-in-need in this country's battle against the LTTE.
Though Tibetan Buddhism is not of the Theravada sect practised in Sri Lanka, nor having any special significance to the life and times of Gautama the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, the head-of-state in exile of Tibet is undisputedly the central figure of modern Buddhism worldwide.
He has, no doubt, been an attraction in the West where he has a genuine following among Westerners who have imbibed the teachings of the Buddha, but his cult-like image has also been fostered and promoted by Western governments with an undeclared agenda of using him as the catalyst for anti-Chinese agitation.
The Chinese Government has wasted no time in accusing the Dalai Lama himself of instigating the violence calling for freedom. Its official media has labelled him a "wolf in a monk's clothes" while hinting that the US spy agency, the CIA is doing the groundwork for the agitation.
In the midst of the rioting, a US Congressional delegation has arrived in Dharamsala in India where the Dalai Lama has sought refuge ever since he fled his seat of authority in 1959 when the Chinese armed forces swamped his country. The Congressional visit headed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, was apparently scheduled before the rioting broke out.
Her public utterances were, to say the least, cute. Everything she said was true; "If freedom loving people don't speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost the moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world".
Yet, that homily from the highlands of India's Himachal Pradesh across the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to the ears of the Chinese leadership in Tiananmen Square in Beijing must ring a hollow note when on the other side of the Himalayan mountain range and the Khyber Pass, blood-drenched Iraq was marking the fifth anniversary of the US led invasion -- a move that was fully supported by the US Congress.
The story of Iraq is another sorry muddle. Already, the battle-cry "Bring the Boys Home" is spreading from state to state across the US, but not so much because of the hapless Iraqi civilians being battered, bruised and brutalized in their own country but because US troops have suffered a bloody nose in the process and criticism of expenses incurred is snow-balling.
There is a powerful string attached to the rioting in Tibet -- a call for the boycott of the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Beijing this August.
It has a familiar ring - remember when the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 during the height of the cold war?
By a strange coincidence (or is it, really?) Taiwan, like Tibet, another Achilles heel of China, is also making somewhat provocative noises against China by holding a referendum asking the people to decide whether they should get UN membership and change their name to Taiwan or keep it as the Republic of China, something that irritates mainland China no end.
The Dalai Lama has delinked the Olympics boycott call from the cry freedom of his flock.
But the West is adamant about putting China in its place in the scheme of the New World Order. It is alright to do business with the Chinese, but the country's burgeoning economy, and its growing influence in Asia and Africa must be checked.
Unlike in earlier times, Sri Lanka is today too hamstrung by the Northern insurgency to make its voice heard in international affairs.
No Government, however much it may profess its commitment to protect the Buddha Sasana and spread the Dhamma, has been in a position to earn the wrath of the Chinese Government by expressing any concern either about the situation in Tibet or the plight of the beleaguered Dalai Lama.
A Parliament that has Buddhist monks as its members remains mute because of this stark reality. There's not even a murmur from them on this score.
The 72-year-old Dalai Lama's request to visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and the Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura has been denied by successive Sri Lankan Governments that otherwise boast of the country being the repository of the Buddha's sublime teachings. So, if China plays this kind of hard-ball with countries like Sri Lanka, then it must also expect to face the hard-ball of international politics played by the West.