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In Message to China, PM Modi Extends B'day Wishes to Dalai Lama, BJP Brass Takes Part in Celebrations

By: Abhishek Jha

News18.com

Last Updated: July 07, 2022, 08:52 IST

The Dalai Lama had sought refuge in India after fleeing from Tibet more than half a century ago along with many of his supporters after Chinese troops invaded the capital Lhasa in 1959. (Reuters)

The Dalai Lama had sought refuge in India after fleeing from Tibet more than half a century ago along with many of his supporters after Chinese troops invaded the capital Lhasa in 1959. (Reuters)

The public attendance at celebrations and PM Modi’s wishes show a visible change in posturing from the Indian side in India-China relations, especially after the Galwan Valley incident

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday called Tibetan spiritual leader The Dalai Lama and wished him on the occasion of his 87th birthday. In his tweet, PM Modi said: “Conveyed 87th birthday greetings to His Holiness the @DalaiLama over phone earlier today. We pray for his long life and good health.”

In Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala, where The Dalai Lama resides permanently, his birthday was celebrated at the main Buddhist temple Tsuglagkhang.

PM Modi had called Dalai Lama last year also to wish him on his birthday. This seemingly benign phone call does have significant meaning in terms of India-China diplomatic ties. While PM Modi wished The Dalai Lama on his birthday in 2015, for the next few years, no such greetings were conveyed publicly, apparently keeping in mind the Chinese sensitivity on the issue.

The Dalai Lama is well respected in India and abroad as a spiritual leader. However, owing to the Chinese sentiments regarding Tibetans and their spiritual leader, successive Indian governments have maintained a ‘safe political distance’ from him in order to not irk China. But a visible change in posturing from the Indian side in India-China relations could be noticed in recent times, especially after the Galwan Valley incident, and to mark the birthday of The Dalai Lama publicly from the highest level of leadership is termed as a subtle message to the Chinese side.

This year, many senior BJP leaders have also reached Dharamshala to attend the birthday celebrations of the spiritual leader. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur joined the celebration virtually as the chief guest. This coming out in public by senior BJP leaders is a clear sign that both the party and the government at the Centre are not shying away from appearing close to The Dalai Lama — a sign that may not go down well with the Chinese government.

In Delhi, where Tibetans gathered to celebrate the birthday, Union Minister of State Meenakshi Lekhi was invited as the chief guest. Another MoS at the Centre, SP Baghel, was also present on the occasion. The organisers of the event, however, maintained that both the ministers were present at the event not in their official capacity but in their personal capacity.

Speaking at the event, Lekhi mentioned how The Dalai Lama calls himself the Son of India. She said, “India is not the country where he was born, but definitely India is one country which he respects and loves as his own. He is someone who adopted India as his mother.”

Birthday greetings for The Dalai Lama continued to pour in from across the globe. Wishing him on his birthday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement said that “His Holiness brings light to his fellow Tibetans and so many around the world by promoting peace, encouraging inter-faith harmony, and advocating for the preservation of Tibetan language and culture”. The US secretary also said that “United States will continue to support His Holiness’s and the Tibetan community’s efforts to preserve Tibet’s distinct linguistic, religious, and cultural traditions, including the ability to freely choose their religious leaders”.

The Dalai Lama had sought refuge in India after fleeing from Tibet more than half a century ago along with many of his supporters after Chinese troops invaded the capital Lhasa in 1959. He has been living in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The Tibetan government-in-exile operates from India and over 1,60,000 Tibetans live in the country.

The Dalai Lama is revered not only among Tibetans but across the world. Every year, his birthday is celebrated with enthusiasm by his followers. Many celebrities come down to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh to take his blessings. This year also ace Hollywood actor Richard Gere was seen participating in the birthday celebrations in Dharamshala.

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first published:July 07, 2022, 08:52 IST
last updated:July 07, 2022, 08:52 IST