US reverses policy, zero aid to Tibetans

WASHINGTON:President Donald Trump has proposed zero aid to the Tibetans in 2018, reversing the decades-old US policy of providing financial help to the community to safeguard their distinct identity under the Chinese rule.

Washington, May 26

President Donald Trump has proposed zero aid to the Tibetans in 2018, reversing the decades-old US policy of providing financial help to the community to safeguard their distinct identity under the Chinese rule.

The State Department, which sent the detailed proposal to the Congress as part of Trump’s maiden annual budget, described the move as one of the “tough choices” that it had to make as its budget itself has been slashed by more than 28 per cent.

The Trump administration now wants other countries to jump in to help the Tibetan community.

Leaders of the Tibetan community in the US refrained from commenting, saying they are still reading the budget papers. At the same time, they observed that majority of the assistance to the Tibetan people, including for Tibet, so far has been Congressionally- driven.

President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) Lobsang Sangay had said on Wednesday in Washington that the Chinese government “is hell bent upon the destruction of Buddhism in China”.

Beijing views the 14th Dalai Lama as a “separatist” working to split Tibet from China. During the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Communist rule, the Dalai Lama fled to India.

The State Department, in its budgetary proposal for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1, has removed the decades-old Tibet Fund and has proposed zero dollars against Ngwang Choephel Fellows. Both the categories in 2017 and 2016 had accounted for more than a million dollars.

However, the State Department, in its footnote of the budget, said that Special Academic Exchanges, whose budgetary allocation has been reduced from more than USD 14.7 million in 2017 to just USD 7 million for 2018, would include funding for programmes such as the Benjamin A Gilman International Scholarship Program, Mobility (Disability) Exchanges, and the Tibet Fund.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi expressed concern over the move. Pelosi had this month led a high-powered Congressional delegation to Dharamsala to meet the Dalai Lama. “As she has said many times, including during her visit, if the US does not speak out for human rights in China, we lose all moral authority to talk about it elsewhere in the world,” her spokesman said.

The move to abolish the Tibet fund is expected to be widely opposed in the Congress. The US policy towards Tibet is currently driven by the Tibetan 

Policy Act of 2002, which was signed by the last Republican President, George W Bush.

It lists its “purpose” as being “to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity”.

The Act, among other things, includes US government assistance for non-governmental organisations to work in Tibetan communities in China; an educational and cultural exchange programme with “the people of Tibet”; Voice of America and Radio Free Asia Tibetan-language broadcasting into Tibet; and assistance for Tibetan refugees in South Asia.

It also calls for a scholarship programme for Tibetans living outside Tibet; and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) human rights and democracy programmes relating to Tibet. —PTI

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