Dalai Lama Caught in the Middle as India and China Reboot Ties

Written by on April 21, 2018 in Government, Politics with 0 Comments

Steven Sewert / Sydney Morning Herald /Getty Images


By Sugam Pokharel | CNN

New Delhi (CNN) — Is India distancing itself from the Tibetan exile community six decades after the Dalai Lama fled to the country?

That’s the question many are asking after celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the spiritual leader’s arrival in India have been moved or canceled, as Beijing and New Delhi seek to reboot ties in the wake of a tense year in bilateral relations.
From March 31, Tibetans in India are holding a year-long “Thank You India” event as a prelude to celebrating the Dalai Lama’s time in the country and to show gratitude to the Indian government and its people for their support of Tibetan refugees.
But what should have been a moment of joy has been overshadowed by a flurry of speculation about the future of the exiled Tibetan community — and especially the freedom they have enjoyed in India since the late 1950s.
“It looks like the Government of India is changing its policy,” said Claude Apri, an India-based expert on Tibet and author of several books on Tibetan issues.
After an unsuccessful revolt against the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, fled the capital Lhasa in secret.
He crossed into India on March 31, 1959 and has made India his home ever since.
A living god-like figure for millions of Buddhists, India officially calls him “the most esteemed and honored guest of India.” China accuses of him of being a “a wolf in monk’s robes,” engaged in “anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion with the aim of breaking Tibet away from China.”

‘Very sensitive’

In early March, news emerged that the Indian Foreign Secretary penned a classified advisory asking senior leaders and government officials to refrain from attending events planned by exiled Tibetans in India.
The note reportedly said the events, in March and April, came at a “very sensitive time in the context of India’s relations with China.”
A week later, the Tibetan Central Administration — the government in exile — decided to move a major cultural event that was originally planned to be held in the Indian capital New Delhi with a speech by the Dalai Lama, to Dharamsala, where the exiled community is based.
A Dalai Lama-led inter-faith prayer ceremony was also scrapped, the Tibetan Central Administration said, as was the Seventh World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet that was meant to be held on April 26-28 in Delhi.
The Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, the organizers of the convention, declined to give a reason for the cancellation of the high-profile event.
Sonam Dagpo, a spokesman for the Tibetan Central Administration said that there has been no direct communication from the Indian authorities and that the plans were changed out of respect to the Indian government’s position.
“Once we (heard about the note), we decided to shift the venue,” he said. “There are no ill feelings. If you weigh what the Indian government has done for us, that is far more than this.”
The Indian foreign ministry issued a statement this month saying there is no change in India’s position, and that “His Holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India.”
According to the latest data from the government in exile, more than 128,000 Tibetans live outside of their homeland. Of those, 94,000 live in India, around three quarters of the total. Another 10.6% live in Nepal and the remaining have resettled in more than 30 countries around the world.
Since 1974, the Dalai Lama has said he does not seek independence from China for Tibet, but a “meaningful autonomy” which would allow Tibet to preserve its culture and heritage.


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