Dalai Lama going strong at 72
NEW DELHI: The Dalai Lama turns 72 today. The Chinese government and its Communist satraps in India are balefully curious to know if he has an ailing health. It would make them immensely happy if it was true.
It is true that he has not been keeping well. He had to cancel his European tour early this year as doctors advised him to rest after a hectic 2006 though when this author met him in 2005, the Dalai Lama appeared hale and hearty. His handshake was firm and his baritone brimming with humour, the 14th Dalai Lama appeared every inch healthy.
Despite his age, he continues to tirelessly travel around the world. The Dalai Lama went on a back-to-back two-week long tour of Australia and New Zealand last month. The Chinese opposed his visit so much so their foreign ministry spokesperson, Qin Gang said, “Dalai Lama is not a simple religious figure but a political exile, who has been long engaged in activities aimed at splitting the motherland and undermining national unity. We express our strong dissatisfaction and stern representations over Australia ignoring China and insisting on allowing the Dalai to engage in activities in Australia."
Earlier, the Chinese were concerned about his peripatetic visits around the globe and his efforts to increasingly internationalise the Tibetan issue which ruffled their feathers. Now, for the past two years, the Chinese have canvassed hard to sell that the Dalai Lama has ‘suffered some health setbacks’ and his hold over Tibetans in Tibet and elsewhere weak.
Hu Jintao’s government has opposed his visits to various countries chiefly on the reason that the Dalai Lama is no longer a spiritual leader but a political leader and has a hidden agenda. On the 48th anniversary of Tibetan National Upraising Day this March 10th the Dalai Lama said, “.....a meaningful autonomy should be put into place. Since this particular autonomy is for minority nationalities, the demand for a single administration of the Tibetan nationality is sincere, just and transparent. It is clear to the world that we have no hidden agenda.”
After the resumption of talks since 2002, the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government had five rounds of “comprehensive discussion’ and both sides were able to express their suspicions, doubts and real difficulties. The Dalai Lama says he is committed to resolving the Tibet question within the framework of China’s sovereignty and Constitution. But the Chinese government harbours more of suspicion than allay any fears resolving the Tibetan issue.
There has been a worrying concern by the Dalai Lama over the population transfer to Tibet and more importantly a strategic concern that should worry India. China has justified the ‘Hanization’ of Tibet by its economic growth.
The Dalai Lama said, “There is nothing wrong with infrastructural development such as railway in itself. However, it is a source of deep concern that ever since the railway line became operational, Tibet has seen a further increase in Chinese population transfer, deterioration of its environment, misuse and pollution of its water, and exploitation of its natural resources, all causing huge devastation to the land and all those who inhabit it.”
Indian security experts believe China has already laid defence networks in the Tibetan region to gather information and intelligence. This was thought as the chief reason for deferring the reopening of Nathu La last year and the ‘Tibetan’ borders were thrown open on Dalai Lama’s birthday, symbolically as if it were. China has already deployed its DF-21 missiles, akin to our Agni-II, which have the capability to hit Indian cities within the range of 1500 km.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) believes that there are 15 airfields in the Tibetan region including one in Khasgar in the Xinjiang region which is 400 km from Leh as the crow flies. In Tibet, Chinese military have been laying fiber-optics and expanding their airfields. There are an estimated 50-60 missiles in Tibet.
The growing militarisation of Tibet was echoed in 1998 when George Fernandes, the then defence minister said China has its nuclear weapons stockpiled in Tibet right along India's borders and that it has extended its military airfields.
In the latest 10th March statement, the Dalai Lama expressed his desire to visit China on a pilgrimage. The Dalai Lama said that China is a country with long history of Buddhism, and has many sacred pilgrim sites. "As well as visiting the pilgrim sites, I hope to be able to see for myself the changes and developments in the People's Republic of China", he said.
The Dalai Lama may not be in the pink of his health but his charismatic spell seems to grow stronger than ever. When he gave the Tibetans living in Tibet a call for banning the use of Chuba (traditional Tibetan attire) animal skins, Tibetans