Keep Dalai Lama out of Valley, resolve J&K issue from within

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Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Road ahead after Balakot: Invite Dalai to heal J&K” — The Op-ed headline in this newspaper made interesting reading. Nevertheless, even if theoretically considered, in my mind it’s likely to create fresh “situations” rather than resolving the existing ones. Why? We first need to explore and explain the locus standi of the Dalai Lama despite his personal, temporal and spiritual status and charisma in the global arena. All the more if we try to involve him in India’s internal matters like in Jammu and Kashmir, which is one of the 29 states of India.
Without doubt J&K does need a (fresh) close look, even though we have been looking into it for several decades. True, there’s been a phenomenal growth in the festering issue, which now has become multi-dimensional. It has created lobbies and counter-lobbies from both within and without India, though regretfully so.
To me, therefore, certain fundamental points need clarity. First, what is the Dalai Lama’s nationality? Is he Indian? Chinese? Tibetan? Stateless? Religious guru? Second, why the Dalai Lama? Just because “we need a non-political, non-bureaucratic person of international repute who has no baggage of Partition, nor associated with misgovernance of the state, whom the youth could trust and listen to”? Being the “only person who has the moral authority” with “unblemished compassion”?
Honestly speaking, even if what is stated above is true, the Dalai Lama cannot be drafted into J&K only on the basis of these qualifications. There could be serious unforeseen and unanticipated growth of “issues” thereby affecting the overall “situation”. This could create additional complications in an already complex scenario.
J&K is an internal matter of India; and under no stretch of the imagination can anyone other than an Indian be allowed to be involved to untie the knots. As far as my understanding goes, the Dalai Lama is not regarded as a Chinese national. Nor is he an India-born citizen. The existing perception is that the Dalai Lama is a Tibetan in exile in India; a refugee living on Indian soil. Hence, even if he is allowed to travel abroad under a diplomatic passport, it doesn’t change the basic situation about Tibetans in India, who are given an Indian “identity certificate”. It’s a yellow-coloured document over which are inscribed “Government of India” on top, and “Identity Certificate” at the bottom.
It’s purely a travel document issued by the ministry of external affairs, mostly to Tibetan refugees, along with other stateless people. Since June 28, 2016, however, Sweden reportedly no longer accepts India-issued Identity Certificates as a travel document (ostensibly under Chinese pressure to stop the Dalai Lama from travelling abroad, or at least stop his entry into Sweden). One may also note the detailed description and definition given of the document. “This certificate is issued for the sole purpose of providing the holder with identity papers in lieu of a national passport. It is without prejudice to and in no way affects the national status of the holder. If the holder obtains any other travel document, this certificate ceases to be valid and must be surrendered to the nearest Indian passport issuing authority”.
Clearly, therefore, whatever be the nationality of the Dalai Lama, he is not an Indian citizen by birth. Hence, my contrary view. Indians, under no stretch of the imagination, can involve any foreigner, howsoever rich, famous or celebrated, in their internal affairs, specially one involving J&K. It’s hard to believe that there is no one other than the Dalai Lama available in the midst of 1.26 billion Indian heads. If that is case, then the Dalai Lama should be urgently accorded Indian citizenship to induct him for much bigger responsibilities!
We need to recall what has been the professed stand of the Government of India on the Dalai Lama’s movements and activities in the country as was stipulated in writing by none less than the foreign secretary of India in February 2018.
It was a proposed celebration for the completion of 60 years of the Dalai Lama’s life in India, planned by the Tibetan government in-exile. At the behest of the foreign secretary, the Cabinet Secretary not only curtailed the movement but also diminished the importance of the celebrations with the words: “The proposed period will be a very sensitive time in the context of India’s relations with China. Participation by senior leaders or government functionaries, either from Central or state governments, is not desirable, and should be discouraged.”
A further clarification by the external affairs minister, however, followed thus: “The Dalai Lama 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.” It was a good and clear point; and I would like to adhere to it, in letter and in spirit.
Clearly, therefore, the Dalai Lama is a foreigner. An honoured guest of India. A “religious leader” and deeply respected and revered by Indians. He has full “freedom” to carry out his “religious activities”. Hence these very qualities stand in the way of the revered Dalai Lama to get involved in J&K because it’s not a religious but a political issue, and internal political conflict, or differences cannot be allowed to be interfered with, either by a religious leader or by a foreign national.
Today it’s an honoured guest, the Buddhist Dalai Lama. Tomorrow, a revered Hindu godman/guru could stake claim to be the arbiter in J&K, followed by a popular imam, maulvi or qazi, or a high priest of the Church or a jathedar from a famous gurdwara!
Let us not forget that both China and Pakistan are already physically present in J&K with their unethical and illegal occupation of Indian territory, and there is almost no possibility to retrieve it in the near future. Kashmir is a messy issue, essentially due to foreign intervention and mala fide intentions originating from across the border. Hence, to think of adding another foreigner, whose identity originates from his religious beliefs and conviction, in the Indian state of J&K, which too is suffering from distorted views on religion, cannot make things easy or smooth for anyone. Things could even go from bad to worse.
It is therefore absolutely essential to try and resolve the J&K issue from within. There’s absolutely no role for any foreign national in J&K today. Or, for that matter, in the future. 1.26 billion Indians surely are capable enough to chalk out their own destiny. Don’t forget, J&K constitutes part of an eternally turbulent geography of the northwestern frontier of India.