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Dalai Lama’s Leh visit after 4 years amid India-China border row likely to leave Dragon fuming

Source : News18

Dalai Lama’s Leh visit after 4 years amid India-China border row likely to leave Dragon fuming
On the Dalai Lama's 87th birthday earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him up and wished him. More greetings poured in from other top leaders of the country. (File pic/PTI)



Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will visit Leh for a month from July 15, his first visit coinciding with the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation of Indian and Chinese soldiers along the Line of Actual Control.

The Dalai Lama hasn’t been to Leh in the last four years including in the times of the Covid pandemic when the Ladakh region was literally shut off for travel. He would otherwise visit the area quite often and hold big religious congregations in the cold desert that has a substantial Buddhist population.

The visit of the Dalai Lama, however, is likely to irk China as it had in the past objected to his presence in Ladakh. Beijing has always got riled up with the exiled leader for questioning its complete annexation of Tibet in 1959. The Dalai Lama had then escaped to India where he continues to advocate for the middle-way approach with China to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet. That approach may be to grant maximum autonomy to the hill region so that the Tibetans could have a say in running their day-to-day affairs.

Other than this irritant, China has teething border issues with India and it has often led to fierce skirmishes between the two armies.

China claims the Line of Actual Control is not fully settled notwithstanding India’s stand to resolve the “difference of perception of the boundary through dialogue and diplomacy”. In the past, India has questioned China occupying the Aksai Chin area that Pakistan had gifted it, claiming it was a part of India’s Ladakh region. In the past many years, tensions have escalated along the India-China boundary.

In the spring of 2020, the Chinese massed its troops and reportedly transgressed into Indian territory which led to a fierce clash in Galwan in which 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops were killed. Ever since then, there has been a race to build infrastructure and mass soldiers on the LAC in Ladakh.

The two armies had earlier engaged in a long stand-off at Doklam in the Northeast in 2018 and before that in 2013.

The Dalai Lama’s visit has the potential to further escalate tensions between the two Asian military giants even though leaders from the region maintain he is a spiritual and moral figure and there is no political messaging. “He had been regularly visiting Ladakh and giving his preaching. There is no politics in it,” Sajjad Kargili, an influential leader from Ladakh, told News 18.

Konchok Stanzin, councillor of the high-powered Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council from Chushul, told News18 that the Ladakh union territory administration is making most of the arrangements for the spiritual leader’s stay in the region. “He will put up at the usual accommodation in Choglamsar and impart religious teachings to his followers. It is not decided whether he will stay for a month or more,” Stanzin told News18 from Leh, adding that the full itinerary would be known to his personal staff.

“He has been invited to Leh by senior-most leader and two-time member of Parliament Thupstan Chhewang and he agreed. The Ladakh Buddhist Association is closely working with the government,” he added.

On the Dalai Lama’s 87th birthday earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called him up and wished him. More greetings poured in from other top leaders of the country.

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