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Flowers / Saransh Sehgal

Posted December 10, 2011 by sehgalsaransh in Uncategorized

The Panchen Lama Mystery [ The Diplomat ] July 11, 2010   Leave a comment


Is China’s pick for second-highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism legitimate or just a power grab, asks Saransh Sehgal.

The 75th birthday of the Dalai Lama this week was cause for celebration for many Tibetans. But it also acted as an uncomfortable reminder of both their spiritual leader’s advancing years and the uncertainty of who will succeed him.

Under Tibetan tradition, the Panchen Lama, second only in ranking to the Dalai Lama, plays a key role in finding the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama. But the problem is there are now two Panchen Lama—one selected by the current Dalai Lama and another picked by the Chinese government.

In May 1995, the Dalai Lama named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the real incarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama. However, China rejected the nomination, and soon after announced that Gyaincain Norbu was actually the newest incarnation of the Panchen Lama; it also said that the Dalai Lama’s named successor had been taken into ‘protective’ custody. By whom, where and why was never made clear.

So who will really succeed the Dalai Lama?

Beijing has insisted that Gedhun is not the real Panchen Lama, and that he was chosen arbitrarily by the Dalai Lama. The avowedly secular Communist government instead selected its own Panchen Lama by drawing lots from a golden urn. But this selection, although a traditional method used by China, is seen by many as an effort by Beijing to diminish the current exiled Dalai Lama’s influence over Tibet. Beijing has long accused the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and who now lives in exile in the Indian Himalayan town of Dharamsala, of being a separatist.

Supporters of the Dalai Lama say China’s efforts at influencing the succession are doomed to failure.

‘China’s appointed Lama will never get any respect. He’s Tibetan, but we can’t recognize him as the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation,’ says a Tenzin monk at the temple complex opposite the Dalai Lama’s residence in exile. ‘The Chinese have given him this status…but for us, the last words will be His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s.’

The monk is far from alone in this view—many Tibetans dismiss China’s choice as a sham and Tibetan exiles have protested over the disappearance of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who they describe as the youngest political prisoner in the world. They say China’s chosen Lama is simply a propaganda tool to undercut the Dalai Lama, and many still live in hope that the ‘real’ Panchen Lama can be found or that he can escape to India.

The urn method used by China is actually considered a legitimate one and was used to select the 10th, 11th and 12th Dalai Lama. But critics say such a process is irrelevant if the Dalai Lama has already unequivocally named his choice of Panchen Lama. Indeed, the 10th Panchen Lama himself reportedly declared that according to Tibetan tradition, the confirmation of either the Dalai or Panchen Lama must be ‘mutually recognized’ by the other, as well as Beijing.

China had until recent months kept its choice out of the glare of the international media, with the youngster spending most of his time in Beijing, studying with his teachers and carefully watched over by the Communist Party. But officials underscored the importance of their nominee to the Party by this year appointing him a member of the country’s top legislative advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The move followed his election as vice president of China’s state-run Buddhist Association.

‘I’ve shouldered the mission of safeguarding national unity and ethnic solidarity since I was enthroned,’ Norbu told the official Xinhua news agency a week after he was declared a delegate to the advisory body. ‘Now, such a sense of responsibility is becoming even stronger.’

So how does the Dalai Lama feel about Beijing’s choice?

In May, he held a Twitter session with Chinese Internet users in which he discussed Norbu’s selection. According to AFP, he said:

‘As far as I understand, he (the new Panchen Lama) is very intelligent—as far as Buddhist scriptures, he is making a lot of effort…But the people have certain suspicions about him, on whether or not his interpretations of Buddhist scriptures will be effective. This is very important and it will depend on he himself.’

Chinese officials are undoubtedly aware of the uphill struggle they have in winning over sceptical Tibetans, and it was likely such concerns that prompted a visit by Norbu to address a number of prominent Tibetan monasteries, including Tashilhunpo Monastery—traditionally the seat of power of the Panchen Lama.

‘China seeks to legitimize its rule in Tibet by claiming it plays a crucial role in the identification of Tibet’s two most important spiritual leaders,’ says Tenzin, a young Tibetan in exile, on the issue of the Tibet political debut of Beijing’s choice.

Indeed, Tibetans in exile have been particularly vocal in their opposition to China’s Panchen Lama. ‘No matter what China claims and what it does, he (China’s Panchen Lama) isn’t authentic in the eyes of Tibetans. He has no legitimacy,’ says Thupten Samphel, spokesperson for the exile government. ‘This is just another attempt by the Chinese government to diminish His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s image among the Tibetans.’

And there remains the question of the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, still the choice of Panchen Lama for many exiled Tibetans. China denies he’s in detention, with the recently appointed governor of Tibet, Padma Choling, reportedly telling AP on the sidelines of China’s annual legislative session:

‘As far as I know, his family and he are now living a very good life in Tibet…He and his family are reluctant to be disturbed, they want to live an ordinary life.’

Such assurances are unlikely to satisfy Tibetans any time soon.

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The Dalai Lama’s 75th Birthday Celebrations [ Shambhala Sun ] July 06, 2010   Leave a comment




The Dalai Lama’s 75th birthday celebration: Photos by Saransh Sehgal

Looks like somebody was having a very nice time. And His Holiness was hardly the only one. Throngs of people of all ages braved the rain in Dharamsala, India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 75th. Thankfully, photographer and writer Saransh Sehgal was there, and shares this and other photos from the very special day. See more photos after the jump.

Images and accompanying text by Saransh Sehgal, Dharamsala, India. All rights reserved.

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet turned 75 on July 6.  Here he sits along with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa and members of the Tibetan government-in-exile as a part of the ceremony to celebrate his birthday.

Braving the rain, hundreds watched and greeted the Dalai Lama on his 75th birthday eve; colorful umbrellas and Tibetan prayer flags were seen around the Temple.

Young Tibetan school kids sing and play music during the Dalai Lama’s birthday ceremony.

The Dalai Lama watches the festivities with interest as a traditional Tibetan dance is performed.

This traditional Tibetan dance performance was a delight to watch, especially considering that His Holiness is living in exile from the nation of his birth and his people.

Tibetan men and women, in traditional dress, performing a Chupa dance.

Watching the ceremony from on high, Tibetan monks were delighted and prayed for the Dalai Lama’s health and long life.

His Holiness investigates a book received as a birthday present.

Saransh Sehgal is a photographer and writer living in Dharamsala, India. He has written about the Dalai Lama, Tibet and the geopolitics of the region. Some of his work can be seen at:

India-China unfinished border business [ Defence Review Asia] June 2010   Leave a comment


By Saransh Sehgal

Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis and the drastically evolving international situation in 2009, the two Asian giants of China and India showed their might, coming up against each other for more world power status and defying diplomatic ties with the West. The world’s two most populous countries, China and India – which are now both nuclear-armed – had a heated last quarter of 2009, with claims laid on almost every corner, but by the end of the year they were found coordinating their strategies at the Copenhagen climate summit, indicating there are areas in which they can work together.

New Delhi and Beijing have come a long way since. The two have signed various agreements to maintain peace and guiding principles for current negotiations. Their armies have even engaged in joint exercises on Chinese and Indian soil. But the question is whether China and India are rivals or partners? The Sino-Indian relationship is so delicate that during past decades, conflicts and cooperation have been part of each country’s national interest.

But the two future superpowers have areas on which they would never shake hands – the territorial dispute along their borders is what strikes them the most. India and China are embroiled in border rows. Recent news of intrusions along the border has resulted in a war of words, with both sides threatening possible action. In recent years, however, China has been raising the temperature at the border. Chinese claims to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian administered state in the north east, and frequent Chinese “incursions” into the nearby Indian state of Sikkim and in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir have begun to multiply in line with Beijing’s rising economic and political influence.

Even a recent rare opinion poll conducted separately in both countries perceives each other as the greatest threat. The highlight of the poll was seen on Indian TV channels and newspapers and resulted in pressure on the Indian Foreign Ministry.

Recent news reports say that China has occupied large swathes of Indian territory in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir over the years. A note from the Leh district administration to the Indian home ministry says that India has lost a substantial amount of land in the last two decades. Sources say that China is taking advantage of the “disputed territory” status of 150 km of 646 km long LAC in Ladakh sector and increasing its presence closer to the Indian side.

Sovereignty claims
However, both sides continue to claim chunks of territory under the other’s control. China’s anger stems in part from a dispute over Arunachal Pradesh that stretches back nearly a century. China claims sovereignty over the entire Arunachal Pradesh.
China also lays claim to 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) of land in India’s northeast and cites the region’s cultural affinity with Tibet as evidence the area forms part of what it calls “southern” Tibet. India says China occupies 38,000 sq km (15,000 sq miles) of territory in Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas. Aksai Chin is critical of the Chinese as it is the site of a key highway linking Tibet and Xinjiang. Pakistan recognises the Chinese position of the so-called western sector dispute only, because it is part of the wider border agreement of 1963 between the two. Even as China recognised India’s sovereignty over the state of Sikkim in 2003, incursions still persist to this day.

China claims the region and has disavowed the so-called McMahon Line – a border drawn by India’s British colonial rulers in 1914 that gave Arunachal to India in an act of map-making that China to this day refuses to recognise. China says it was once part of Tibet, which the Chinese military seized in 1951, and so belongs to Beijing. India says that Tibetan leaders ceded it to British-ruled India in a 1914 treaty. The area fell within the border of British India after it was redrawn by Henry McMahon at the Simla Convention of 1914. It is known that the Tibetan representatives signed the agreement at Simla, while Beijing’s nominee refused to do so. Despite 13 recent rounds of talks on the border dispute, no agreement has been reached and the border has neither been demarcated in maps nor delineated on the ground.

However, India has rebutted claims by Chinese government and the Indian prime minister has stated categorically that eastern state Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. He repeated this to the Chinese prime minister when the two met in Thailand in October 2009.

Moreover, unlike India, China has methodically developing its infrastructure along the disputed border, littering the barren terrain with highways and railways capable of moving large numbers of goods and troops, and Beijing has deployed heavy military presence along its borders.

Relations strained
Mutual ties are lying in a state of jeopardy with relations strained by a flare-up over their disputed boundary. Now India is fortifying parts of its northeast, building new infrastructure including roads and bridges, deploying tens of thousands more soldiers and accentuating its defenses.
New Delhi has become both increasingly aware of its disadvantage and exceedingly suspicious of China’s intentions. India recently announced that it will deploy two additional army mountain divisions to the northeastern state of Assam, which will bring India’s troop levels in the region to more than 100,000. India is heavily reinforcing its Army and Air Force units on its undefined border with China, including two additional infantry divisions, a squadron of attack aircraft and refurbishing airfields. These will be complemented by the addition or upgrade of airstrips and advanced landing stations as part of a broader effort to bolster India’s military and transportation infrastructure in its neglected northeast region.
For China the anger is greater due to India over the last half a century giving shelter to the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and thousands of his followers who are calling for a sovereign Tibet outside of China. The Dalai Lama has widened the relations between the countries since his exile. The rise of India’s economic and diplomatic strength has made it even more assertive in dealings with its continental rival and New Delhi has stood firm in the face of increasing Chinese protests over the Dalai Lama’s trip to Arunachal. For India, the Dalai Lama this time is being used as a playing card by allowing him into the territory in an effort for India to show its firm grip on the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Beijing, on its part, is suspicious of New Delhi’s growing ties with the United States, with the Dalai Lama’s activities seen as a rallying point for the Tibetan struggle.

India sees China as spearheading a drive against India in diplomatic areas in other parts of the world. It is vying against India in extending cooperation to the African nations, for example. China is also the biggest arms supplier for Pakistan.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved any time soon, tension along the frontier will persist. A fuzzy frontier provides room for incursion, which carries the potential of escalating into military confrontation. It is widely believed in India that China is reluctant to resolve the issue because it would enable India to reduce military deployment along its China frontier. An uncertain border keeps New Delhi under pressure, unsure over Beijing’s moves.

In the new world scenario, India and China are two fast developing economies and the rest of the countries are watching their vying endeavours closely.

The world has been seeing India and China as the future economic superpowers and some analysts believe that the economic clash between to the two to be the fastest growing economy in the world will dominate the Asian continent. India’s relations with the other major powers – the United States, Russia and Japan – are growing. There are indications that China is increasingly concerned about the strategic implications of India’s evolving relationship with the United States in particular. One way it could reduce its anxiety is by becoming more pro-active and moderate in its stance towards a settlement of the LAC and the boundary. The more China haggles over marginal gains in territory, remains inflexible over its “claims” and continues to be insensitive to India’s security interests, the more it loses diplomatically in New Delhi.

Analysts believe India and China should set aside their lingering border disputes when the United States is strangling their economies. They must first together make sure that American supremacy is put to an end and then settle their claims. Since each side holds the territory that is strategically vital to it, a Sino-Indian boundary agreement should be attainable – given goodwill on both sides. ENDS

Beijing eyes overseas bases

Recently Beijing has signalled it could set up military bases in overseas locations including Pakistan. A Chinese government website said: “Setting up overseas military bases is not an idea we have to shun; on the contrary, it is our right…it is baseless to say that we will not set up any military bases in future because we have never sent troops abroad.” The move is also clearly to counter US presence in the region and exert pressure on India and the US vis-à-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan. “As for the military aspect, we should be able to conduct the retaliatory attack within the country or at the neighbouring area of our potential enemies. We should also be able to put pressure on the potential enemies’ overseas interests. With further development, China will be in great demand of the military protection,” the report added. Currently China has no military bases outside its territory. It has often criticised the United States for operating such overseas bases. But the recent statement is bound to create consternation in Indian circles. Growing military ties between China and Pakistan are a serious concern to India. New Delhi worries about Beijing’s rising influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

Saransh Sehgal is an analytical writer on Tibet and India-China Issues.

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Tawang Land Of Monpas [ Little India Magazine ]   Leave a comment

By Saransh Sehgal

The remote frontier town of Tawang, nestled in the Himalayan foothills in the northeastern Indian region bordering China-administered Tibet, is a flashpoint for the Sino-Indian frontier dispute. During the 1962 India China war, the town was seized by China, which lays a claim to vast regions of Arunachal Pradesh, having disavowed the so-called McMahon Line, a border drawn by India’s British colonial rulers in 1914. Tibetan leaders ceded the area to British-ruled India under the 1914 treaty, but after China seized Tibet in 1951, it refused to recognize India’s territorial claims to the region, asserting that it is a part of southern Tibet. Over the past century, Tawang has traded control among the British, Tibet, China and India.

It was thrust into the spotlight again recently after India allowed the Dalai Lama to visit the region, which China protested was a provocation and a challenge to its dominion over all of Tibet.

The word Tawang means a place blessed by a horse. The dominant tribe Monpas are of Mongoloid descent, who are believed to have immigrated from Bhutan and Tibet, but the circumstances under which the migration occurred is obscure.

Tawang is most reputed for its Tibetan Buddhist monastery, the largest monastery after the Potala Palace in Tibet’s capital Lhasa. It is also home to Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama — the only Indian Dalai Lama. The influence of the current 14th Dalai Lama, who many Monpas believe is a reincarnation of the sixth, over Tawang is enormous. He appoints the powerful abbot of its monastery and his government-in-exile funds institutions in this area. During the Dalai Lama’s visit in November 2009, the Indian tricolor fluttered along with the Tibet flag everywhere.


The heart of the town lies around the majestic 400-year-old Tawang Monastery, which is perched atop a ridge and surrounded by thick clouds seems suspended from heaven, giving rise to its moniker, Galden Namgey Lhatse, or celestial paradise.











Posted December 10, 2011 by sehgalsaransh in Photography, Reportage

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Russia raises eyebrows over Tibet [ Asia Times ] June 2, 2010   Leave a comment

By Saransh Sehgal

DHARAMSALA, India – Seen as a major policy shift, Russia said last week that it was ready to assist in dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, to resolve the Tibet issue.

Moscow’s gesture puzzled many, including Beijing and the Tibetan government in exile. Why did Russia – a strategic partner of China – suddenly become so eager to involve itself in the Tibet issue?

On May 13, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow that Russia was ready to help settle the dispute between China and the Dalai Lama over Tibet. Beijing has firmly opposed foreign intervention on the issue, insisting it is an internal affair.

“We’ve been closely following developments in relations between the Chinese leadership and the Dalai Lama and we know that the Chinese leadership would like the Dalai Lama not to be associated with any political activities and to distance himself from separatist trends,” Lavrov told the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, as reported by state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

“We are interested in normalization in relations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama … If all the parties make attempts to separate purely pastoral contacts from political associations, this would be a solution to the problem. We are ready to assist in this,” Lavrov said.

The comments from Moscow were sup rising as most countries have avoided the Tibet issue in recent months, likely in fear of upsetting China while its global economic and political clout are on the rise. Moscow is a key strategic partner of Beijing and recognizes Tibet as an integral part of China, and Lavrov added some remarks that likely made Beijing happy.

“Beijing has well-founded reasons for saying it will not have contact with the Dalai Lama as long as he makes provocative statements and engages in political activities … The Dalai Lama has, perhaps unwillingly, become a symbol of Tibetan separatism for many foreign leaders,” Lavrov said.

Beijing, apparently still weighing Lavrov’s comments, appreciated his criticism of the Dalai Lama, but avoided comment on the offer to help solve the Tibet issue. At a regular press conference in Beijing on May 20, when asked to comment on Lavrov’s remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu simply said that it was an important part of China-Russia strategic partnership to show firm support for each other’s core interests. As China’s strategic partner, Russia has always firmly supported China’s positions on Tibet-related issues. China has highly praised Russia’s position.

Chinese state media also reported on Lavrov’s criticism of the Dalai Lama but was mute on Moscow’s policy shift. “Russian Foreign Minister calls Dalai Lama symbol of Tibet independence” was the headline of an editorial in the state-run People’s Daily Online. “The Dalai Lama has continued to use his religious functions to meet objectives that have nothing to do with religion or religious work, and such attempts have not achieved the desired results.”

A ninth round of talks between Dalai Lama’s envoys and Beijing resumed in January 2010, but they came to a standstill over the “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People”, a document submitted by Tibetan exiles which Beijing rejected. Chinese officials told the Dalai Lama’s envoys that Beijing would not make any compromises on its sovereignty over the Himalayan region and that both sides’ views remained “sharply divided”.

Tibetan exiles are unsure of Russia’s intentions. “If Russia is in a position to facilitate the dialogue on behalf of Buddhist followers in the Russian Federation or even on behalf of Beijing, then we welcome it. But if it is aimed at restricting the Dalai Lama’s activities, then this is something we must carefully review from our own view point,” Samphel Thupten, a spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile, told Asia Times Online.

The prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, has said that compromise over the memorandum is not possible. “We have already made all necessary and possible concessions that we could make, and there is nothing left to concede any further.” Rinpoche stressed that there would be no acceptance of the Beijing’s demand that “all Tibetan people should be under one single administration within the framework of the People’s Republic of China”.

“It is quite difficult to understand Moscow’s policy over the issue. It is either trying to re-initiate the dialogue process or strengthen its diplomatic ties with Beijing,” said Phunstok, an exiled Tibetan.
The Dalai Lama, who currently is on a trip to the United States, has pressed China for more dialogue over his country’s autonomy. “The Chinese leadership needs to acknowledge that there is a Tibetan issue and begin serious discussions,” the Dalai Lama said last week in an exclusive interview with, a US-based Chinese-language online newspaper.

Before he began this month’s trip to the US, the Dalai Lama said in an interview with the Associated Press that the Tibetan exile movement must press forward with its talks with the Chinese government, even though years of negotiations have resulted in almost no progress. The Dalai Lama cautioned that it could be decades before any benefits of such talks with China are obvious.

Some experts think say that the shift in Moscow’s position was due to the Dalai Lama’s efforts to preach non-violence and oppose calls for armed struggle against Beijing. “Lavrov’s remarks show that Moscow thinks China takes too harsh a stand on the Dalai Lama and that Russia at the same time is trying to remain neutral in the dispute,” said Professor Sergei Luzyanin with the Institute of Far Eastern Studies.

However, Russian authorities last month rejected a request for an entry visa for the Dalai Lama made by a Russian Buddhist association, the Kalmykia Buddhist Association. The Dalai Lama last visited Russia in 2004, after he was first denied a visa.

The Russia Federation is home to a large population of Buddhists, with around 700,000 living in eastern areas such as Buryatia on the border with Mongolia and south Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia. In 2006, Kalmykia presented the Dalai Lama with the “White Lotus Order” – the republic’s highest civilian award – in recognition of the Tibetan leader’s “outstanding merits and considerable contribution for the prosperity and the revival of spirituality” in the region.

Moscow has taken seriously China’s claims that the Dalai Lama is “wolf in monk’s clothing” who is interested in separatism and not spirituality. “Beijing’s position on the Dalai Lama’s visit is very tough and clear, and it is obvious that Russia cannot help but take this into account,” Interfax quoted Mikhail Kapura, who represents the Republic of Kalmykia in the Federation Council, as saying.

Millions of Russian Buddhists were looking forward to the Dalai Lama’s visit and the Kremlin was under pressure to allow it. Buddhism is one of the officially recognized traditional religions of Russia along with Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism. However, in the end it appears that Russia’s international obligations were seen as more important.

Saransh Sehgal is a contributor based in Dharamsala, India, who can be reached at

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Posted December 10, 2011 by sehgalsaransh in Reportage

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China stumped over Dalai Lama [ Asia Times Online ] May 21, 2010   Leave a comment

By Saransh Sehgal

DHARAMSALA, India – The Dalai Lama’s recent attendance at a cricket match here led Beijing to again taunt the Tibetan spiritual leader over past remarks that he is a “son of India”, with Chinese media saying he is faking a passion for the sport to please his “Indian masters”.

At the root of Beijing’s criticism may be concerns that the religious leader will one day seek citizenship of India, where he has taken refuge for the past 52 years. This would complicate the thorny issue of succession when the 74-year-old passes away.

In recent years, the Dalai Lama has often referred to himself as “a son of India”. At an event to mark 50 years of Indian hospitality to the Tibetans in New Delhi last year, he said, “I call myself a son of India. Over the years Tibetans have developed very close ties with the country.”

This led various Chinese media to say that the Dalai Lama no longer had the right to be the religious leader of Tibetans. The criticism was revived last week when he attended an Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match in Dharamsala as a special guest.

“The [Tibetan] religious leader was trying to prove himself a worthy son of India by participating in the country’s favorite pastime … Cricket is one of the most popular sports in India and the Dalai Lama of course has to have fun with his ‘dad’ since he wants to be a son of India,” wrote a People’s Daily editorial.

The Dalai Lama had no right to speak on “China’s internal issue concerning Tibet”, said the newspaper, if he were the “son of a foreign country”.

Prior to the match, the Dalai Lama had held a “spiritual dialogue” with international players, blessing them with white silk scarves, reported London’s Daily Telegraph. The spiritual leader reportedly told them that while he was never much of a sportsman, he once beat Zhou Enlai, the former Chinese premier, at table tennis.

Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakara and Mahela Jayawardene did not attend the meeting, as their government had said their presence might upset China. Sri Lanka supports a “one-China” policy and regards Beijing as a key political and military ally.

In January, in the article, “A look at the Dalai Lama’s ridiculous Indian heart”, the China Tibet Information Center said the spiritual leader’s links with India were diluting Tibetan culture.

The Dalai Lama pleases his Indian masters not only by showing his willingness to be a “son of India”, but also by effacing the originality of the Tibetan culture. The Dalai Lama uses such words to dwarf the rich Tibetan culture with distinctive local characteristics.

Why is he entitled to represent the voice of the Tibetan people? Furthermore, will a guy who betrayed southern Tibet to India really care about the well-being of the Tibetan people?

“Southern Tibet” is a reference to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own. When the Dalai Lama last year visited the state, Zhu Weiqun, the executive vice director of China’s United Front Work Department, accused the Tibetan spiritual leader of meddling in the border dispute.

The China Tibet Information Center added in the article that the Dalai Lama’s “son of India” statements show that he has become subservient to his “Indian masters” while trying to deny his Chinese citizenship – a rare occasion when an official publication has described him as a Chinese citizen.

Many Tibetans fear that Chinese government plans to simply appoint its own replacement when the Dalai Lama passes away, with a veneer of tradition and religion thrown in. If the Dalai Lama were to become an Indian national, the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama could take place outside China, far from its control.

The outcry in Chinese media over the Dalai Lama’s “son of India” remarks comes despite his clarification in March. “I describe myself as a son of India because my mind depends on Buddhist tradition of Nalanda and for the past 51 years, this body has lived on Indian rice and dal. So, physically also, I am a son of India,” he reportedly told friends in Dharamsala.

The Tibetan government in exile says his remarks are being taken out of context. Spokesman Thubten Samphel says the Dalai Lama considers himself “a citizen of the world”, and that his ties to India are strong due to Buddhism’s ancient links to the country.
“China should be focusing on the larger and more pressing problems facing Tibet, rather than dwelling on such small issues,” he was quoted as saying in the Hindu.

“[This response] reflects the Chinese government’s arrogance. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had no freedom in Tibet, he left for India, where he enjoys freedom. What he does or he does not do, depends on his choice,” he added.

The Dalai Lama’s joint secretary, Tenzin Taklha, told Asia Times Online, “He [the Dalai Lama] is a Tibetan and has lived most of his life as a refugee in India. He has long been a guest of the government of India.”

Taklha added that the Dalai Lama currently had no plans to seek Indian citizenship, though some Indian citizens have individually approached him with the idea.

“It’s amusing to see how childish the Chinese can be, even about his attending an IPL match in Dharamsala, where he has lived for 50 years now,” Taklha said. “He was only invited as it was the first time a cricket match has been played in Himachal. Chinese reactions are too immature to respond too, it’s amusing watching them and reading their articles.”

Exiled Tibetans here in general also seem not too concerned with what the Chinese media say – they still regard their Dalai Lama’s words as supreme. Tsering, an elderly Tibetan in exile, told this correspondent, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers himself to be a citizen of the world, he is a living Buddha and so he is universal. His soul is always for Tibet and Tibetans.”

Saransh Sehgal is a contributor based in Dharamsala, India, who can be reached at

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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Posted December 10, 2011 by sehgalsaransh in Reportage

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