China is reported to have conveyed to the Government of India through diplomatic channels its unhappiness over a courtesy call made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at New Delhi on August 11,2010. It is not known how the Chinese came to know of this courtesy call since it was not publicised by the Government of India. The Government-controlled media in China has not yet reported about this.
2. After the publication by sections of the Indian media on August 19 about the meeting and the Chinese protest, Kalon Tenpa Tsering, the Tibetan leader’s representative in New Delhi, confirmed the meeting between the two leaders, in an interview to the Voice of Tibet Radio.
3. This is not the first time the Chinese had protested over a courtesy call by His Holiness on an Indian Prime Minister. Mr.Li Peng, the then Chinese Prime Minister, had protested to Mr.Narasimha Rao, the then Indian Prime Minister, in the early 1990s on the same subject. In that case, Mr.Rao himself had taken the initiative to inform Mr.Li Peng beforehand of the proposed courtesy call by His Holiness. Despite this, Mr.Li Peng objected to the meeting.
4. There is no need for us to be defensive or apologetic about meetings between HIs Holiness and senior Indian leaders and officials---- either for courtesy purposes or for discussing the problems of the Tibetans in India and elswhere. His Holiness has been an honoured guest of the Govt. of India and has the right to meet anybody he wants. There is no need to keep these meetings a secret. Similarly, the Prime Minister and other Indian personalities should not hesitate to return the courtesy calls of His Holiness.
5. Apart from being the leader of the Tibetan people all over the world, including those in China, His Holiness is also an important and highly respected leader of Buddhists all over the world. It is unfortunate that in misplaced deference to the sensitivities of China and Singapore, the Government of India has chosen not to associate His Holiness with the proposed joint project with Singapore for the revival of the fifth century Nalanda University. How can there be any project for the revival of the University without His Holiness being associated with it as a guide, adviser and well-wisher? The historic links between India and Tibet should be an important subject in its curriculum. If Singapore is not prepared to be associated with the project if His Holiness is to be associated with it, so be it. We should not allow China or Singapore to dictate to us in this matter .
6. China has ignored our sensitivities and core interests relating to Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Why should we pay attention to its sensitivities in matters relating to His Holiness and his Tibetan people? Our recognition of Tibet as a part of China should not mean our silence on all matters relating to His Holiness and the Tibetan people. This has to be made clear through appropriate actions and policies. ( 22-8-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )