Tibetan spiritual leader The Dalai Lama turns 85 on Monday and Indians are closely watching how the Modi government observes this day .
Modi’s Tibet policy has been marked by wild swings to the extreme.
It began with the invitation to and attendance at Modi’s first swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Exile government.
It peaked with an India-inspired conference in Mcleodganj in 2015 that brought together Tibetans, Uighurs, Falungongs abd 1989 Tianmmen Square generation and left China red faced in apprehension.
But since the 2017 Doklam stand-off , India downplayed the Tibet factor by stopping government involvement in some Tibet-India relations anniversary celebrations, even as the Modi-Xi summit diplomacy picked up steam.
But since the Ladakh clashes in May-June, speculation has been rifle about India playing the Tibet card with calls by hawks like Brahma Chellaney making a strong pitch for it.
Much will become cleat from how India observes the Dalai Lama birthday today.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called to wish His Holiness on his birthday last year, but he reaches out to him today with special gifts, one can expect glum faces in Beijing
The exiled supreme spiritual leader along with other Tibetans made India their home after fleeing from Tibet after a bloody uprising against China erupted in Lhasa.
While the birthday will be a low-key affair due to the coronavirus, the Kashag – the Tibetan parliament – has planned for a series of virtual events worldwide. The ‘Year of Gratitude’ will be observed from July 1 to June 30, 2021.
However, all eyes will be on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Twitter to see whether he will wish the Dalai Lama happy birthday or not.
Time to play the Tibet card
Strategic thinker Brahma Chellaney tweeted that the PM has long been tweeting birthday greetings to world leaders and wondered whether he will be doing the same on Sunday.
“Narendra Modi has long been tweeting birthday greetings. Today, he wished UP’s chief minister happy birthday. Tomorrow the Dalai Lama turns 85. Amid China’s aggression, shouldn’t Modi wish His Holiness happy birthday on Twitter, if not meet him in person?” tweeted Chellaney.
Netizens are also asking the Prime Minister to rename Shantipath, where the Chinese Embassy is located in Delhi, to Dalai Lama Marg.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning spiritual leader is a thorn in the eyes of Communist Chinese with one official calling him a “wolf in monk’s clothing” after the 2008 Tibetan unrest. The CCP considers him a threat, someone who plans to destroy China’s sovereignty by making a push for independence.
Tibet declared itself independent after the fall of Qing dynasty
The Chinese never bothered themselves with Tibet and their interference in the Tibetan affairs started only during the reign of the sixth Dalai Lama.
The hatred against the Chinese interference in Tibet was so high that after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1913, all Chinese officials were expelled with the Tibetans declaring themselves independent.
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However, when the Communist party stormed to power in China in October 1949, Mao Zedong declared his intention to ‘liberate’ Tibet in 1950 which he did while India, reeling under the weight of Nehruvian foreign policy, remained a mute spectator.
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In 2017, China raised objections to Dalai Lama’s visit in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh terming the visit as, “provocation” by India.
Another reason which irks the Chinese is the Dalai Lama’s 2019 statement when while talking about his successor he said that after his death he is likely to be reincarnated in India and warned that any Chinese interference in succession should not be considered valid.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called to wish His Holiness on his birthday last year, the Dalai Lama was travelling due to which the conversation could not take place.
It would be interesting to see whether the PM takes to twitter to wish the Tibetan spiritual leader, a symbol of Tibetan resistance, its culture and religion.