The future of the Dalai Lama, who has received shelter in India since Beijing launched a crackdown on Tibetans nearly 60 years ago, reportedly surfaced as the predominant subject of discussion between China and India at a recent summit as both sides try to mend their tumultuous relationship, according to a report in Indian media Tuesday.
Discussions about the Dalai Lama dominated the recent informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, India’s Daily O media outlet claimed in an op-ed.
Various news outlets have suggested that improving Beijing-New Delhi relations have taken precedent over sheltering the supreme Tibetan spiritual leader, who China has deemed a “separatist” seeking Tibet’s independence from Beijing.
Since the supreme Buddhist leader of Tibet fled to India in April 1959, China has focused on bringing him back to Chinese-ruled Tibet before he passes away and the search for his next reincarnation begins.
Tibetans have found themselves becoming “increasingly less relevant to the Indians” under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, the Tibetan Buddhism news outlet Dorje Shugden pointed out in an op-ed in late March, echoing other media agencies.
In mid-March, the South China Morning Post questioned whether Modi’s government would turn its back on the Dalai Lama to appease China.
Fast forward to Tuesday, India’s Daily O claims the issue of the Dalai Lama was the main subject of discussion during the recent informal summit in the Chinese city of Wuhan between PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Daily O reports:
The Dalai Lama has emerged as the biggest talking point in the India-China bilateral affairs through the back channels and informal parleys in 2018. The Dalai Lama was the central issue discussed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their first-ever Wuhan Summit (April 27-28).
Never before the issue of the Dalai Lama had come center stage like this between India and China. Never before the Dragon and the Elephant had discussed the Dalai Lama issue at highest levels with a laser beam focus as Xi and Modi did at Wuhan for eight hours in six separate outings together. But that’s what the Wuhan informal summit was by and large about, though, of course, all other contentious bilateral issues were discussed. The reason for such a deep focus of informal talks between Xi and Modi was because of the health concerns about the Dalai Lama.
Dr. Tseten Dorjee, the personal physician to the Dalai Lama, has reportedly dismissed claims that the religious leader has terminal-stage prostate cancer.
Nevertheless, Daily O maintains that the Dalai Lama’s ailing health is what prompted Modi and Xi to discuss the religious leader’s future.
Ahead of the historic China-India talks, PM Modi’s Hindu nationalist government “banned Tibetans from holding a rally with the Dalai Lama in New Delhi this month to mark the 60th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule,” Reuters reported in March.
China’s state-run Global Times acknowledged the ban days before the summit, noting “the two sides agree that any new crisis, be it new border disputes or issues challenging China’s core interests such as moves from the Dalai Lama clique, will ruin bilateral ties.”
Modi and Beijing are trying to avoid a sequel to the 73-day stand-off between India and China that took place last year along a border region that the two Asian giants also share with New Delhi’s ally Bhutan.
It appears that the Dalai Lama has become a prominent bargaining chip.
The Dalai Lama reportedly maintains he is not seeking independence and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Beijing would resume.