Thursday, October 29, 2009

The shadow of Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is expeced to visit Arunachal Pradesh next week. China has not only objected to Dalai Lama's visit, it has also claimed the state as its own. The Chinese and Indian leaders at their summit meeting in Thailand earlier this month, apparently did not raise this issue, and instead agreed to focus on the areas of mutual agreement. Yet, before and after the summit, the Indian government restated its position that the Dalai Lama is a respected guest and spiritual leader, and is free to travel to any part of India, and that he is expected not to engage in politics while in India.

The fact that the Indian and Chinese PMs did not raise the issue of Dalai Lama during their discussions in Bangkok, has been interpreted in two very opposite ways. One view is that Indian side has downplayed its commitment to Dalai Lama by not raising it during the discussions. The other view is that by refusing to make any commitment to China on Dalai Lama, India actually stood up to Chinese pressures both on Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Wall Street Journal in a recent editorial, "Dalai Lama Lesson", says that India used the issue of Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh to send a signal to China, and compared the 'strong' stand of Manmohan Singh on Dalai Lama, with Barak Obama's refusal to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington recently. In fact the news about Obama declining to meet the Dalai Lama, had come just 24 hours before the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama!

How does the Dalai Lama, who has not been in Tibet for the past fifty years, continue to case his shadow over China, India, the US, and others? How should one look at the question of Tibet? Given the multi-ethnic and multi-identity nature of India, we can hardly support nationalist movement based on any specific identity? On the other hand, given the recognition for the diverse and multiple identities that all Indians have, it is difficult to endorse any attempt to subsume or suppress the different identities. Can one be Tibetan and Chinese, at the same time, as I can be a Bengali and and Indian?

With Arunachal Pradesh and Dalai Lama in the news, it is a good opportunity to discuss these and related issues.

1 comment:

  1. The burden of Dalai Lama, by Shobhan Saxena, in the Times of India Crest, 31 Oct 2009

    "I am worried. My mind is in Lhasa,'' he said. "It's just like those days in March 1959, when Chinese army convoys kept coming into Lhasa. But there's one difference . In 1959, there was risk to my life. I am quite safe now in this country." This was March 2008: the Olympic torch was on its global journey and Tibet was on a boil, with dead bodies piling up on Lhasa's streets.

    In the past 17 months since that day in Delhi, the infectious smile - which has become his trademark - has left the Dalai Lama's face many times. Now with his visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh inching closer by the day, and the Chinese government badgering India on the border issue - an indirect way, most Tibet watchers agree, of pressuring New Delhi to shut for good the Dalai Lama's seat at Dharamsala - questions are being raised about the future of the Tibetan spiritual master who is also the political head of six million people both inside and outside his troubled country.

    In fact, the Dalai Lama himself sparked this debate in 2007 when he told a Japanese newspaper that he might select his successor in his lifetime. Since then there has been endless talk and speculation on the multiple ways in which the incarnation of the Dalai Lama could be selected, on what he is up to and if he is going to pick a successor himself. Is he going to make it an elected position on the lines of the Catholic Pope? Is he going to give his seat to a little girl who may grow up to become the Dalai? Or is he going to hold a referendum in Tibetan society on whether he should be reborn at all and if it is time that the institution of the Dalai Lama came to an end? ... ... ...


    After victory in the civil war, Mao Zedong proclaims the founding of the People's Republic of China and threatens Tibet with "liberation"

    China draws up a 17-point agreement legitimizing Tibet's incorporation into China

    Full-scale uprising against the Chinese in Lhasa. Thousands die in the Chinese crackdown. The Dalai Lama and most of his ministers flee to India, followed by some 80,000 other Tibetans

    As tension mounts between India and China over border dispute, PLA attacks India and occupies the Aksai Chin area in Jammu & Kashmir's Ladakh region

    Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution reaches Tibet and results in the destruction of hundreds of monasteries. Thousands of Tibetans are killed in the ten-year period (1966-76 )

    Cultural Revolution comes to an end, Mao dies and Deng Xiaoping takes charge of China. Repression in Tibet eases somewhat though the large-scale relocation of Han Chinese to Tibet continues

    The Dalai Lama calls for Tibet to be declared a zone of peace and continues to seek dialogue with China, with the aim of achieving "genuine selfrule" for Tibet within China

    China imposes martial law after riots break out

    Tiananmen Square massacre by the PLA. The Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace

    China names its own Panchen Lama and the boy selected by the Dalai Lama disappears from public view

    The Karmapa Lama escapes to India and takes shelter at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh

    The Dalai Lama says he is considering breaking with centuries of tradition and naming his own successor, instead of awaiting rebirth

    March 2008:
    Anti-China protests escalate into the worst violence Tibet has seen in 20 years, just five months before Beijing hosts the Olympics

    November 2008:
    A special conclave of Tibetan representatives called by the Dalai Lama puts his middle-path approach on notice, saying the exiled community may go for "complete independence" in future

    October 2009:
    The Dalai Lama announces plan to visit Arunachal Pradesh. China turns heat on India on the border issue