By Ngawang Phuntsog , Professor Emeritus, USA
Supporters of Kasur Ngodup Dongchung (KND), led ably by Mr. Kunga Tashi la, recently organized a timely and productive virtual panel discussion on November 28, 2020. Three invited panelists included Zongkar Topgyal Tsering, former Cabinet Secretary of the Central Tibetan Administration, Jigmey Passang, member of the Tibet delegation team led by late Kasur Lodi Gyari, and Chapdak Lhamo Kyab, lecturer, writer, and former Chithue. With a series of questions, carefully sequenced and selected, the moderator asked each panelist to explore the topic of “What impact can Kasur Ngodup Dongchung make on the Tibetan struggle and particularly Sino-Tibetan dialogue?”
The session began with the moderator asking each panelist to share what comes to their mind when they think of KND. It is vital to keep in mind that each panelist has had several years of personal and professional relationships with KND at various levels of their involvement in the CTA, Dharamsala. Listening to each one describe their observations of KND’s qualities revealed a stunning convergence of attributes such as trustworthiness, integrity, sincerity, dependability, non-provincialism, non-sectarian, and equal treatment of all. The panelists also mentioned KND’s calmness and composure as an essential feature. Strangely, this aspect is often ignored in contemporary literature on leadership. I suppose this is a culturally significant-quality far more pronounced in a collectivistic Tibetan culture. In short, all these attributes suggest that Kasur ND is a man of uncompromising character.
More than ever before, the role of trust is a core and foundational issue in the current Sikyong election. Conventionally, a leader is perceived to be trustworthy when one’s behavior and actions are consistent with the organization’s objectives and goals. The public is more likely to trust such a leader who attracts followers in promoting change and facilitate successful coordination of varied constituents. Trust is often rare, and a leader endowed with this attribute is far less susceptible to corruption, coercion, temptation, and nepotism.
Trust is a precious asset exemplified by a leader in his behavior consistently, even if it means stepping down from a high position when a situation compromises integrity. A leader with character maintains secrecy and protects it from leakage. Thus, a leader with a trusted character is the only antidote against internal or external forces from causing harm or disintegration of an organization. Such a leader can forge unity among diverse constituents for accomplishing the common goal. Trust also plays a critical role in connecting Tibetans in and outside Tibet, a link so essential for forging a united front to achieve the common aspiration of reuniting in a free Tibet. His engagement in several Sino-Tibetan Dialogue Task Force meetings over the years offers an edge over other candidates. So, I am led to believe Kasur ND is a candidate that fits this bill squarely.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung is the only one who has upheld the election rules and regulation stipulation that a prospective candidate for Sikyong may not volunteer to run for office but may emerge as a viable one through the preliminary selection process. Therefore, he has refrained from issuing a manifesto or engaging in direct campaigning until the initial selection stage is completed in January 2021. He is to be complimented for staying the course as enshrined in the election mandate. This is one fine example that illustrates that Kasur ND respects the rule of law and walks the walk.
We need a candidate experienced and ready to work with the Indian government and its different agencies to strengthen existing relationships and take it to a higher level for resolving the Tibet issue. As is well-known, India is the only country with which Tibet has had a cultural, educational, and spiritual relationship for thousands of years. CTA, along with its various apparatuses, are located in India. India is the major country we rely on for support. Undoubtedly, the road to resolving the Tibet problem runs through India in reminiscence of Tibetan and Indian scholars’ ancient route to promote the Tibetan language and Buddhism. Hence, the ancient birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism and Language, India could well be the origination of Tibetan Freedom in modern time.
The seeds of Tibetan freedom have already been sprouting in the land of Aryavarta. The unhindered schooling of Tibetan children supports this assumption. We need a leader who must elevate educational, cultural, and spiritual bonds to reach the goal of returning to Tibet. This goal’s urgency has reached a pivotal point within the current global context when China is now seen as a ruthless behemoth intent on destroying the very fabric of democracy everywhere. In so doing, China has unwillingly earned the international community’s wrath that is likely to lend a helping hand to Tibet’s struggle to regain freedom.
I have highlighted the embodiment of trust in leadership and India’s undisputable role in Tibet’s future as two aspects that must be considered as we move into the Sikyong 2021 election. Unlike any other community globally, this election takes place in exile for an organization with the herculean task of garnering international and Indian support for Tibet’s freedom.
Of all the candidates, Kasur ND is the only one with a proven record of having worked closely with several high Indian personnel consistently for several decades. Currently, as a Representative at the Bureau of His Holiness in New Delhi, and formerly as Secretary and the Kalon of the Department of Security, he has had uninterrupted personal and professional rapport with Indian and foreign dignitaries for many years. I have yet to discover a case when he may have compromised or breached the trust. He appears to have shown no interest in being vulnerable to financial gains or the promotion of celebrity image. So, I admire Kasur ND, who has an established record of serving our common cause with dignity, integrity, and composure without seeking fame or public adulation. I urge all to join me to vote for Kasur Ngodup Dongchung, so he emerges victorious by securing more than 60% votes in this initial phase. He may then issue an election manifesto we have all been eagerly waiting for. Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that trust and unity are precursors for moving closer to common aspirations dear and near to all Tibetans.