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India-China Face-off: Where’s the Dalai Lama When You Need Him?

Even as India and China are locked in a face-off, why has the Dalai Lama chosen to keep mum?

Published
Opinion
5 min read
India-China Face-off: Where’s the Dalai Lama When You Need Him?
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Where is the Dalai Lama? While all the countries, including Bhutan, are with India on the issue of the Doklam stand-off, as claimed by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the spiritual leader is missing from the scene. He is silent even as China is on a collision course.

The stand-off emerged after a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-led construction party attempted to build a road near the Doklam area. Bhutan recognises Doklam as its territory while China claims it as part of its Donglang region. Doka La is the Indian name for the region.

Also Read: Experts Decode China’s Doklam Dare: Troops Won’t Wait Indefinitely

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Mute Spectator

Now the question is, why is it that the Dalai Lama and his fellow Tibetans living across India choose to remain silent?

Why doesn’t the Dalai Lama criticise China over its imperialist designs and create an opinion against the dragon for threatening war against India? For somebody who got the Nobel peace prize, this is a perfect opportunity to launch an all-out attack against China.

Yet, the Dalai Lama prefers to keep quiet even as there is no possibility of de-escalating tension. The two Asian giants have close to 3,500 miles of border, which is a disputed one.

It would be an understatement to say that the situation is grave and serious as six thousand soldiers from the world’s two largest countries are facing each other eyeball-to-eyeball. Amid all this, the respected leader from Tibet is not visible at all.

This is the time when he could and should pro-actively use his good office and stature to appraise the current situation to the top leaders of the world. Further, he could tell them how the brutal Chinese government is treating the people of Tibet.

Also Read: Near India-Bhutan-China Trijunction, Soldiers & Civilians Are Edgy

Memories of 1959

It was on 17 March 1959 when the charismatic Dalai Lama left Lhasa. And on 26 March 1959, he reached Lhuntse Dzong, a few days march from the McMahon Line, the border between India and Tibet.

The Dalai Lama had written to Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru as he sought refuge in India. And once Nehru got the request, he immediately decided to grant asylum to the Dalai Lama and his close aides.

Jawaharlal Nehru had replied to the Dalai Lama: “My colleagues and I welcome you and send you greetings on your safe arrival in India.”

Also Watch: 9 Things to Know About India and China’s Border Disputes

We shall be happy to afford the necessary facilities for you, your family and entourage to reside in India. The people of India who hold you in great veneration will no doubt accord their traditional respect to your person.
Jawaharlal Nehru to Dalai Lama
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At a time when India and China are locked in a face-off, should the Dalai Lama speak out in support of Delhi?
(Photo: Rhythum Seth/ The Quint)

No Response from the Son of India

And since then, the Dalai Lama has been considered among the most respected citizens of India who holds a position of esteem. And he too, describes himself as the “son of India” as he hailed the secular principles of the country.

In a recent interview, the Dalai Lama said, “I am living in India since 1959 and hence, I am a son of India.” The Nobel laureate made this remark in his speech after inaugurating an international seminar on Buddhism in Bihar’s Nalanda district.

The Tibetan spiritual leader sermonised China to learn from India about democracy which brings harmony among people of different languages and ethnic backgrounds.

“In India, there is harmony in society, which has different languages and scripts. Democracy in this country is very deeply rooted not because of the country’s poor conditions, but because of transparency,” the Dalai Lama once told Thailand’s leading English daily Nation in an interview.

These euphemistic notions are fine while you are giving an interview to a newspaper or addressing a seminar. Now, of course, the situation is extremely volatile as borders are raging with activity.

India needs active support from Lama when it is facing a war-like situation. Sadly enough, it is missing. He has not uttered even a word against the ulterior designs of China. Why?

Dalai Lama ought to speak the truth. India does not expect that he becomes our spokesperson. However, India can expect that he exposes the deadly designs of China in no uncertain terms.

Also Read: China in a Fix Over India as War Clouds Gather in Doklam

Tibetans in India Need to Take a Stand

And the same is true for the Tibetans living in India. They freely protest against the repressive Chinese regime for inflicting atrocities on the residents of Tibet.

There are roughly 100,000 Tibetans living in India. Although they are often referred to as “refugees”, it is a different matter that many of them have got Indian citizenship.

According to India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1986, anyone born in India between 26 January 1950, and 1 July 1987, is an Indian citizen. This makes a large section of the exiled Tibetan community in India eligible for Indian citizenship. Many of them are applying for citizenship too.

For a long time, these Tibetans have protested as a matter of principle as and when any big Chinese leader visit Delhi. Some of them even climb the wall of the Chinese Embassy.

Even though the cops beat them and prevent them from creating nuisance, that doesn’t stop them from protesting. This is the freedom they are enjoying in India. Yet, these Tibetans too, are not ready to come out in support of India. They have not organised even a single protest march in Delhi or any part of the country. Given the tense political climate, such an attitude is certainly bewildering.

While India is fully prepared to face any eventuality, it certainly expects moral support from them. In democracy, moral support is considered very important. Sadly, it is not forthcoming, either from the Dalai Lama or his followers.

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(The writer is former Editor, Somaiya Publications. He can be reached @VivekShukla108. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(We all love to express ourselves, but how often do we do it in our mother tongue? Here's your chance! This Independence Day, khul ke bol with BOL – Love your Bhasha. Sing, write, perform, spew poetry – whatever you like – in your mother tongue. Send us your BOL atbol@thequint.com or WhatsApp it to 9910181818.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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