By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 30 March 2018
“Thank You India”, an event thanking India for hosting Tibetans for the last 60 years and commemorating the 60th year of the Dalai Lama’s arrival in India, is finally set to kick off after a noisy brouhaha.
Organised by the Lobsang Sangay-led Cabinet of the Central Tibetan Administration, the event was originally to be held in Delhi. However due to the Government of India’s directive to its officials to stay away from participation in the event, considering the “sensitive time” of relations between India and China, the venue was changed to McLeod Ganj.
In summer last year, India and China were at loggerheads over control of an area called Doklam, which is claimed by China and by India’s ally Bhutan. The area still remains on a high level of alert.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit China to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in June. In February, Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale held meetings with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. Gokhale had written the advisory to officials about avoiding the Tibetan event. Gokhale had earlier served as the Indian ambassador in Beijing.
After India’s objection to the “Thank You India” event, Sangay rushed to Delhi, apparently to hear “No need to thank. We will continue with what we do,” from the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India.
The Indian government’s displeasure over the event, which Sangay announced in Delhi, led to cancellation of the 7th World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet, which had been scheduled to be held in New Delhi from 26-28 April.
Then, an event “Remembering 17 March: From Home to Exile”, was cancelled at the 11th hour, citing a change in schedule of the Dalai Lama.
During a press conference on Wednesday to release a music video and three books related to “Thank You India”, Sangay, speaking of the cancellation of the event in Delhi, said, “Whatever we do, we don’t want to cause inconvenience to our hosts or to the persons who want to meet us.”
“There is no structural departure from past policy on Tibet or on His Holiness the Dalai Lama as far as the Indian government is concerned,” he added.
The Government of India later said that it had not changed its position on the Dalai Lama. “He is a revered religious leader and is deeply respected by the people of India. His Holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India,” spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.
The Delhi event was planned to be held at Thyagaraj Stadium, with guests including former Prime Minster Manmohan Singh and senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani.
For tomorrow’s scaled-down and low-key event at the Dalai Lama temple court yard in McLeod Ganj, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will be the chief guest, along with Culture Minister of India Mahesh Sharma and ruling party BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav.
Satyavrat Chaturvedi, a member of Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) who is from the Indian National Congress party representing the opposition, will attend among other guests.
The “Thank You India” event is being held to mark the 60th year of the arrival of the Dalai Lama and some 80,000 Tibetans to India, seeking asylum after the Chinese occupation of their country Tibet in March 1959.
On the night of 17 March 1959, the Dalai Lama, aged 24, disguised as a soldier, slipped out of the Norbulingka, his Summer Palace in Lhasa, and began his flight to India, where he arrived on 31 March along with the Tibetans who followed him.
He established the Central Tibetan Administration in McLeod Ganj in northern India, which works for a free Tibet seeking autonomy within China rather than independence.
With a budget of 1.5 crore rupees (230,000 USD approx), tomorrow’s event will kickstart the yearlong campaign thanking India for hosting Tibetans for the past 60 years.