If Modi wishes Dalai Lama, it will irk China and win India some local support near the border

Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a press conference in Aurangabad last yearBCCL
  • A nod to Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday could be the swing-vote along the disputed border areas between India and China.
  • Indians in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are ethnically and religiously part of the Tibetan cultural world.
  • Experts believe that India wishing Dalai Lama on his 85th birthday could also a good diplomatic move amid the current India-China border tension.
India’s security in the Himalayan borderlands doesn’t come solely from military build-up or border infrastructure, but also from the pro-India sentiment of its inhabitants. On the event of the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday, many believe that the country should pay homage to the Tibetan Buddist leader as a diplomatic play against China amid the border tension in Eastern Ladakh.

Geostrategist Brahma Chellany believes it’s worth taking the time to wish the Dalai Lama — if not visit him in person — considering Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long history of acknowledging dignitaries’ birthdays on Twitter.

In the past, China has been ‘ strongly dissatisfied’ with India’s support of Tibet, like in 2016 when President Pranab Mukherjee met the Dalai Lama during a children’s summit at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. According to China, meeting with the Dalai Lama disrespected one of Beijing’s core interests. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) maintained that the event was non-political.

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“China is dissatisfied at the LAC [Line of Actual Control] with India and is trying to improve the situation to its liking. Beijing is also frustrated with New Delhi’s persistent support of the Dalai Lama,” commented Observer Researcher Foundation’s ( ORF) Derek Grossman who is senior defence analyst at RAND Corporation.

While a consensus on the border dispute between India and China may take some time to resolve, keeping the pro-India sentiment in disputed regions would help India maintain some level of control.

“India should be proactive, not reactive, in maintaining a dynamic Tibetan diaspora – India’s real security guarantee in the Himalayan border regions,” said Mumbai-based thinktank Gateway House’s Dibyesh Anand.

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The Dalai Lama isn’t too upset about the celebrations being downplayed this year. Instead of gathering in large numbers, he’s asked his followers to recite the Mani mantra 1000 times instead.

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