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 "When the Dalai Lama turns Eighty"

 The Statesman on 26 May 2015


        According to the Tibetan calendar he will do so on June 21, while the Gregorian or the universal calendar that is used worldwide puts the date as July 6. Much rests on his longevity for the Tibetans in Tibet and those obliged to flee their land and reside elsewhere, the largest numbers being in India , the country where the Dalai Lama first sought refuge in 1959 after fleeing Lhasa .  A lot has been written on his successor when he leaves the world. It is not the intention to go into the controversy in this piece. The Dalai Lama has said in one of his statements that he intends to be around for quite a while. Whatever the case, he has discomfited the Chinese leadership no end. They have left no stone unturned to ensure that the Indian government does not give him any latitude to carry out political work from Indian soil. Many other curbs are in place.

Immense pressure is put on countries around the world by the Chinese government to see to it that leaders do not receive him – formally or informally -when he visits their countries. What happened in South Africa because of the denial of a visa to the Dalai Lama that led to the cancellation of the international conference due to the objections of the other delegates should have made the world sit up. It did not. The governments of the world are coming under the sway of the extra-territorial sovereignty exercised by the Chinese by the issuance of ukases of this nature time and again. The governments to whom threats are issued - and more often than not complied with - are not impoverished and weak nations in dire straits, but some of the mightiest governments on the planet, including the entire gamut of Western governments, the supposed champions of human rights and liberty for citizens. It is a sad commentary that of the 194 countries in the United Nations well over ninety percent continue to comply with Chinese demands in this regard. The overwhelming majority among them even deny visas to the spiritual head of the Tibetans. It is tantamount to voluntary diminishment of national sovereignty practically across the globe. Not even the lone super power at the zenith of its power was able to exercise such hegemonic sway over leaders of the world’s nations.

            What will be the stance taken by the government of India when the Dalai Lama turns eighty; more so after the recent visit of the Indian prime minister to China. The question becomes relevant because of the succession issue as well as the fact that in many countries where the Dalai Lama has large following celebrations would, in all probability, take place on a grand scale. The Indian government could either ignore the event in spite of the sentiments of the large majority of people in India who revere him greatly; or it could choose to take a decisive turn towards exercising sovereignty within the country that has been largely abridged over six decades where the northern neighbor is concerned. The invitation to Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile to take a seat alongside the other SAARC leaders at Prime Minister Modi’s swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati was an unexpected bold step. The next logical step would be to use the occasion of the eightieth birthday to felicitate the Dalai Lama at the national level in a manner that the world sits up and takes note. No diffidence need be shown for so-called Chinese sensibilities, because what the government decides would be an internal matter. In honouring one of the most admired spiritual leaders of the age the government would be honouring the people of India and giving new hope – in the Gandhian way – to the suffering people of Tibet. More importantly, India ’s prestige in the world would go up by leaps and bounds. The time has come to shed off the artificial shackles with which the country has bound itself on internal matters because the country across the Himalayas might frown. The extract below is from a piece, Dalai Lama – The Man and his Vision that was written* when he had turned sixty five.  

“Time and again the destiny of nations appears to have been moulded by their leaders. Do leaders then encapsulate in their persona the fate of nations, or does destiny mock nations by throwing up leaders who will follow her dictates? Whatever the truth, the fact remains that destiny, while amenable to change cannot be unmade. Nor can history be unwritten. The believer in the pre-ordained must then pause to wonder whether destiny looked away: from him, his countrymen, or both. A traveler on this perilous path must confront the dilemma of the ages to which no really satisfactory answer has been forthcoming since time immemorial. Nobody, not even perhaps the Dalai Lama himself, knows the answers. But he does know that the very nature of existence posits that the struggle itself is life, karma or the lila of existence.  

This follower of Buddha naturally shuns violence. He has given Gandhi's concept a new dimension. He is willing to adjust to the reality of the situation. He would be satisfied with Tibetan autonomy under Chinese dispensation. The fourteenth Dalai Lama started out as a leader of the Tibetans, as the repository of their hopes and aspirations, for this world and the next. The intervening decades have seen his stature grow to that of a world leader, who remains in the forefront of humanity's march towards a more humane world order; millions more around the world look up to him for inspiration. His cause is no longer just the cause of the preservation of a unique culture of a few million Tibetans. The Tibetan question can perhaps no longer be tackled on the political plane where it has proven intractable and continues to be so. An honest attempt might now have to be made to tackle the issue on a plane where no system or political entity needs to feel alienated or excluded from the process”. Unquote.

The Prime Minister of India has an historic opportunity to transcend the boundary question by suggesting to his counterpart across the Himalayas to consider the Silk Route that suggested itself while visiting the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian on the first step of his journey to China . A 21st Century Silk Route that restores the cultural heritage of the two great ancient civilizations by linking New Delhi – Kathmandu – Lhasa – Beijing. He has already sown the seeds by deciding on e-visas for Chinese coming to India .

The article from The Statesman, after translation, has been published by Russia's premiere portal of the foreign media digest.

* The full article, including a Spanish translation can be read on site

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