(TibetanReview.net, Jun02’20) – Former Indian diplomat Phunchok Stobdan has said he was sorry if his scolding of the Dalai Lama for not speaking up on the Ladakh border dispute amid the ongoing standoff between China and India during a television discussion on the issue had hurt religious sentiments. This followed strong criticisms of him in his home state (or, rather Union Territory) of Ladakh where the Dalai Lama is a revered spiritual figure.
Stobdan has, however, stood by the substance of what he had said, contending that the Dalai Lama is a geopolitical entity as well, that his criticism was in national interest, and that it was his democratic right as “a strategic thinker and an expert on national security affairs” to say what he did.
“If my comments have hurt religious sentiments, then I am sorry. But not everything can make everyone happy. It does not mean we stop commenting on issues that matter to us. Ladakh is not Tibetan or Chinese land, this is India’s land,” theprint.in Jun 1 quoted Stobdan as saying.
The Dalai Lama, now approaching 85 years of age, formally retired from politics in 2011 and has been devoting himself to world peace, interreligious harmony, and the preservation of Tibetan culture and identity.
The substance of Stobdan’s grouse against the Dalai Lama is that the latter is not issuing statements saying the border areas China was claiming with aggressive patrolling did not belong to Tibet, or China, but to Ladakh, and India.
“His Holiness Dalai Lama is a supreme religious leader, but he is also a geopolitical entity. We all know the history behind his coming to India, seeking exile here and setting up a government-in-exile in Dharamshala. Hence, my comments were purely made from the geopolitical and strategic standpoint… Let’s not forget the Tibet issue is not resolved yet,” Stobdan was quoted as saying.
He felt that an “unnecessary religious colour” was being given to his comments “which I made entirely in the national interest”.
“I am after all a strategic thinker and an expert on national security affairs. I know the subject very well and understand these geopolitical issues. This is a democracy after all,” he was further quoted as saying.
In his blunt, utterly irreverent attack on the Dalai Lama, Stopdan had said, “Why is he sitting and not making any comment even as the Chinese are entering our territory?”
“The land on which the dispute is on is a Ladakhi land, it is India’s land. And being Dalai Lama, he should say these things. Why is he keeping silent,” he had demanded to know on the Hindi news channel Aaj Tak May 29.
The question is whether it will make any difference if the Dalai Lama issues such a statement, or only exacerbate the dispute between China and India. After all, India’s position is that Tibet belongs to China, does not recognize any Tibetan government in exile, and requires the Dalai Lama to refrain from politics.