New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the Dalai Lama on his birthday on Tuesday, which has both spiritual and foreign policy implications. For the first time in so many years, Modi has openly acknowledged contact with a Tibetan spiritual leader. At a time when India-China relations are at their toughest, the PM’s action on Tuesday will resonate in both Beijing and other parts of the world.
PM Modi wrote in his message, “Spoke on the phone to wish His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday. We wish him a long and healthy life.” Modi’s message is succinctly conveyed, but it holds a lot of significance given India’s special place in Tibetan affairs and its relations with China.
The move surprised those watching China and Tibet. As it did from the highest levels, this could be the beginning of a more clearly articulated policy on Tibet.
The Dalai Lama said that ever since he became a refugee and now settled in India, he has taken full advantage of India’s freedom and religious harmony. “I want to assure you that I am committed to revive ancient Indian wisdom for the rest of my life,” he said.
China and Tibet expert Claude Arpi told the media, “I think this is very good news. This is a strong message for China, especially ahead of the 12th round of military talks. It is also a message that India is behind the Dalai Lama for whatever he decides. for his succession. To my knowledge this is the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has spoken to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his birthday and has stated this openly. I hope this will mark the beginning of closer ties with Delhi and DL as well.”
India has so far not openly taken a stand on the Dalai Lama’s succession, but has stated that it should be the sole protection of Tibetans and no one should play a role in it. China, in its most recent White Paper on Tibet, has emphasized that China will control the process of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
“This is a welcome step in the right direction and hopefully it will confirm that the wishes of the Dalai Lama will be respected by the Indian government on the issue of his reincarnation,” said Amitabh Mathur, former adviser on Tibetan Affairs to the Ministry of Home Affairs. ‘
In 2020, the Trump administration passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, where the US insisted that only the Dalai Lama should have control over his reincarnation, which has been continued by the Biden administration.