(TibetanReview.net, Mar04, 2018) – India’s top bureaucrat has called on the country’s “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” both at the centre and in the states to avoid events hosted by the exile Tibetan administration to mark their 60th year in exile as this may hurt relations with China, reported The Indian Express newspaper Mar 2. It has also been clarified, however, that the Dalai Lama would continue to be allowed all freedom to carry out his religious activities in the country.
The report said the top bureaucrat, the Cabinet Secretary Mr PK Sinha, had sent a directive dated Feb 26 to high-level officials saying it was “not desirable” for them to participate in upcoming events by the government in exile, noting “the sensitive nature of the subject”. The directive asked secretaries and heads of government departments to stay away from events planned for March-end and early April by the “Tibetan leadership in India” to mark the start of 60 years in exile of the Dalai Lama.
The government was stated to have underlined that this period was a “very sensitive time” for bilateral relations with China.
At the same time India’s foreign ministry has on Mar 2 described the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet as someone “deeply respected by the people of India”.
“There is no change in that position. His holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India,” foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar was quoted as saying in a statement.
The report said the Indian government directive was written on a Feb 22 advice of foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, who was until recently India’s ambassador in Beijing and who had dealt with China’s hardening position on the Indo-Chinese border and other issues.
The exile administration has announced 2018 as a year of ‘Thank You India’ campaign to mark the 60th year of Tibetans’ fleeing of their homeland and arrival in India. Gokhale was reported to have requested Sinha to issue a “classified circular advisory advising all Ministries/Departments of Government of India as well as State Governments not to accept any invitation or to participate in the proposed commemorative events”.
In his note, the Foreign Secretary was reported to have stated: “We understand that this includes a large public event titled ‘Thank You India’ being organised at Thyagaraj Sports Complex in New Delhi on 1 April, 2018. The Dalai Lama set-up also intends to invite a number of Indian dignitaries. These are likely to be followed up by additional events in Delhi as well as other States of India.”
Top Indian political leaders have mostly met the Dalai Lama in private. However, in 2016, the then President Pranab Mukherjee infuriated Beijing when he invited the Dalai Lama to a meeting with Nobel laureates to an international event concerned with children’s rights.
The Dalai Lama has lived in the picturesque north Indian hill town of Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh state, since 1950 after fleeing the Chinese occupation of his homeland.