By Lobsang Wangyal
ON THE WEB, 1 June 2020
Former Indian diplomat P Stobdan has criticised Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama for keeping silent on China’s incursion in the Ladakh region in northern India.
“China is intruding into Indian territory, and the Dalai Lama is keeping busy saying prayers,” Stobdan said during a debate on Hindi TV channel Aaj Tak on Friday.
Raising the question of why Chinese are entering India, he said, “Who told the Chinese that it is their land? China is far from here. It should belong to Tibetans.”
Stobdan then said that the Dalai Lama should declare that these lands claimed and controlled by China belonged to India. “We let him establish a Tibetan government in Dharamshala. He should issue a clarification that the land claimed by China belongs to India and not Tibet.”
China occupied Tibet in 1959, and since then India faced a new challenge from a new neighbour China that posed constant tensions along the more than 3,440 km (2,100 mile) border, with overlapping territorial claims.
A brief war was fought in 1962 over the territorial conflict, in which China emerged victorious, leaving far-reaching repercussions for the two Asian giants.
The Dalai Lama relinquished his political powers in 2011 after he had served the Tibetans for 60 years. He proposed the change in the Tibetan democracy to have an elected political leader for the Tibetan people.
Stobdan comes from Ladakh, and has authored the book The Great Game in the Buddhist Himalayas: India and China’s Quest for Strategic Dominance. Various religious leaders and political leaders in Ladakh have denounced him for targeting the Dalai Lama.
Ladakhi people lashed out at him calling his statements “highly objectionable” and demanded that he tender an “unconditional apology” to the Dalai Lama.
A letter issued by the head lama of Thiksey and Diskit monasteries Kushok Thiksey said: “His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] is not only an epitome of peace and ambassador of humanity, but also the most respected spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands of Buddhists around the world.
“The kind of language that P Stobdan used against His Holiness is highly condemnable. I as the [abbot] of Thiksey and Diskit monasteries, and on behalf of monks and followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, demand unconditional apologies from P Stobdan.”
PT Kunsang, President of Ladakh Buddhist Association, in a letter condemned Stobdan’s statement, and said it was “shocking” and has “deeply hurt” the sentiments of the people in Ladakh. “Such indecency and disrespect towards our spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is unacceptable.”
The Merchant Association of Leh has called a strike and decided to close down all shops on Monday as a mark of solidarity with the Dalai Lama. “We condemn such usage of blasphemous language hurting the sentiments of all Buddhist communities around the world,” the association said.
Stobdan made the remarks when he was discussing the ongoing standoff between the Indian and Chinese soldiers at the Panggong Lake area in Ladakh since the beginning of May.
Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a major standoff for over three weeks in Panggong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok, and Daulat Beg Oldi in eastern Ladakh, in what is turning out to be the biggest confrontation between the two countries since the Doklam confrontation in Sikkim in 2017.
Reports say thousands of Chinese troops have forced their way into the Galwan valley in Ladakh in a disputed area, put up tents, dug trenches, and moved heavy equipment several kilometres inside what has been regarded by India as its territory.
Chinese forces moved in after India built a several-hundred-kilometre-long road along the Shyok River to Daulat Beg Oldi, connecting to a high-altitude forward air base. India’s decision to ramp up infrastructure along the border is believed to have infuriated Beijing.