(TibetanReview.net, Apr08, 2015) – A symposium was held in New Delhi on Apr 7 in honour of late Professor Dawa Norbu who had pioneered exile Tibetan scholarship in modern academic fields. He was best known initially for his editorship of the Tibetan Review magazine in the 1970s and, later, as a professor in Central Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for much of the rest of his life.
JNU Vice Chancellor Prof SK Sopory was the Chief Guest while the Dalai Lama’s New Delhi-based Representative, Mr Tempa Tsering, chaired the inaugural session. The latter, a schoolmate of the late scholar, recalled the latter’s academic vigour and enthusiasm, and his dedication to his quest for knowledge right from an early age.
Prof Sopory, who was a faculty member of JNU when Prof Dawa Norbu was enrolled as a student in the University, recalled the admiration the latter inspired in his peers with his deep inquest into his research work.
The head of the exile Tibetan administration at Dharamshala, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, who gave the keynote address, recalled the time he had spent with Prof Dawa Norbu at Harvard University. He described him as a carefree, amiable and deeply knowledgeable person. He felt that the late scholar was, unfortunately, misinterpreted in the Tibetan society; that contrary to false beliefs, he was deeply influenced by Buddhism, was respected by the Dalai Lama, and a staunch patriot in the Tibetan national movement.
Dawa Norbu’s son, Rinchen Jamyang Norbu, delivered an emotional speech about a father who deeply cared about his family, was strongly dedicated to his academic pursuits and had ardent love for his nation.
The symposium’s first of the four sessions, chaired by Prof Siddiq Wahid, a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, focused on remembering Prof Dawa Norbu’s works by his former students. Presenting a paper on “The Tibetan Historian Dawa Norbu: A Man of Rationale, Humour and Wisdom”, The first speaker, Prof Priyadarsi Mukherji of the Chinese and Sinological Studies, JNU, reflected on the late professor’s accomplishments as a historian of the Tibetan Movement, his objective critique of the history that interspersed between pre-1959 and post 1959 until the past Century.
Prof MN Rajesh, Associate Professor in History, University of Hyderabad, presented a paper on “Cyber encounter with Tibet: An Open Moment?” He delved into the important yet often not clearly understood notion of cyber security and cyber consumerism which the Chinese government uses so effectively. He said that traditional Tibetan indigenous techniques and knowledge were being patented and sold for huge profits by the Government and MNCs while the cyber space was being curtailed through the so-called Great Fire Wall of China.
And Dr Satish Kumar, Head of the Centre for International Relations of the Central University of Jharkhand, presented a paper on “Tibet Factors between India and China Relations”.
The theme of the second session, which was chaired by Prof Srikanth Kondapalli of the Centre for East Asian Studies, JNU, was “Issues of Culture and Sino-Tibetan Linkages”. Geshe Lhakdor presented short documentary on the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives at Dharamshala, of which he is the Director. He spoke about the library’s importance in the preservation of ancient Tibetan manuscripts and artefacts brought at great peril from Chinese ruled Tibet and its role in the propagation of Tibetan culture, heritage and knowledge through books, research centres and interaction among Tibetologists across the world.
Mr Thubten Samphel, Director of Tibet Policy Institute under the exile Tibetan administration at Dharamshala, presented a paper on “Tibetan outreach to the Chinese”. He spoke about the growing bond of friendship and development of common interests between Chinese and Tibetan peoples in the context of Buddhism, Tibetan culture and language. He believed that the increasing rationale behind the Middle Way Approach of the exile Tibetan administration could signal a breakthrough in Tibet-China Relations.
The theme of the third session, chaired by Prof Rakesh Gupta, a former Professor at the Centre of Political Studies, JNU, was on the “Study of Contemporary Issues of Tibet- Politics and Security”. Prof Kondapalli, who spoke on “China’s Foreign Policy and India”, traced the evolution of relationship between India and China since the Communist party’s takeover at Beijing in 1949, the varied nuances related to its approach towards its South Asian neighbours, and the centrality of Tibet in the discourse of China-India foreign Policies.
Professor SD Muni, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, spoke on “Coping with China in South Asia”. He introduced the participants to the approach being followed by China to secure its interests in south Asia over the years, its conflict of interests with India over the region and the strategic implications of such a conflict to both India and the whole region.
And Dr Yeshi Choden, Associate Professor at the Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament at JNU, presented a paper on “The Tibet issue at the United Nations”. She felt that the Tibetan issue was receiving increasing attention at the UN General Assembly, that the various resolutions passed by the UN had pressured the Chinese Government to change its stance on the Tibet human rights issue, and she spoke about follow-up actions taken in the various organs and bodies of the UN.
The symposium’s final session, the valedictory function, was chaired by Prof Renuka Singh of the Centre for Study of Social System, JNU. Mrs Madhuri Santanam Sondhi, Director of the ML Sondhi Institute of Asia Pacific affairs, spoke about the late Prof Dawa Norbu through memories of her late husband Prof LM Sondhi of JNU. She remembered him as an enthusiastic young man from his early age.
The symposium, held in the JNU’s Social Sciences auditorium, was jointly organized by the university’s Tibet Forum and the Tibetan Review publication. The late professor’s wife, Rinchen Lhamo, lighted a traditional Tibetan Lamp at the beginning of the event, while his other son, Longchen Norbu, was also present.
The organizers hoped that that the symposium, held to honour the memory of late Prof Dawa Norbu and his valuable contributions to the field of Tibet studies, would stimulate further progress among scholars.