Under international law, the independence of Tibet is disputed. A Tibetan government in exile was set up in India in 1959, and a parliament in exile in 1960. The government in exile is recognized by no country in the world – but enjoys wide international financial and other support. The 14th Dalai Lama withdrew from all his political functions in 2011, while remaining Tibet's Buddhist spiritual leader. Since then the Tibetan political leader and Prime Minister in exile has been Lobsang Sangay, a legal scholar.

Vis-à-vis China, Tibet's government in exile and the Dalai Lama have proposed what they term a political Middle Way Approach. They do not seek political independence for Tibet but genuine autonomy and an assurance of religious and cultural freedom (currently not guaranteed by China). The government in exile also proposes an extension of the  Tibet Autonomous Region of China to include regions towards the east of the historic homelands in the direction of the Chinese lowlands.