New Delhi/Dharamshala, Jul 6 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said he called up Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and greeted him on his 86th birthday in what is seen in some quarters as a subtle message to China amid strained ties between India and that country over the prolonged military standoff in eastern Ladakh.
As the prime minister took to Twitter to say he had a telephonic conversation with the Dalai Lama, several union ministers including Nitin Gadkari, Hardeep Singh Puri and Dharmendra Pradhan as well as Chief Ministers Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Arvind Kejriwal(Delhi) and Prem Singh Tamang(Sikkim) among others also tweeted to convey their greetings to the Tibetan spiritual leader.
'Spoke on phone to His Holiness the @DalaiLama to convey greetings on his 86th birthday. We wish him a long and healthy life,' the prime minister tweeted.
The Dalai Lama while responding to the birthday greetings said in a virtual address he has taken 'full advantage' of India's freedom and religious harmony and is committed to reviving ancient Indian knowledge. The Tibetan leader also said he is committed to non-violence and compassion 'until my death'.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi welcomed the prime minister's gesture but said a strong message would have gone to China had he met the Dalai Lama in person.
'Very good, sir! But it would have sent a strong message to China had you met HH Dalai Lama in person,' said the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen(AIMIM), who is also the Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad.
Last year, there was no messaging by Indian political leaders on the Dalai Lama’s birthday when ties between India and China nosedived following the deadly June 15 clash in Galwan Valley during the military standoff in eastern Ladakh that erupted on May 5.
Twenty Indian Army personnel laid down their lives in clashes with Chinese troops. In February, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.
Following the escalation in tension, there was a view among a section of the strategic affairs community that India should play the 'Tibet card' to put pressure on China diplomatically.
The president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering utilised the birthday event to say that the Chinese government should recognise that the Dalai Lama is the key to resolving the Sino-Tibetan conflict and should invite him to 'Tibet and China on pilgrimage without any precondition'. He was speaking in Dharmshala in Himachal Pradesh.
In a virtual address from his residence in Dharamshala, the Tibetan spiritual leader thanked people from across the globe who greeted him on his birthday and said he would continue to serve humanity and combat climate change.
“Since I became a refugee and settled in India, I have taken full advantage of India's freedom and religious harmony. I want to assure you that for the rest of my life I am committed to reviving ancient Indian knowledge,” said the Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso.
“I really appreciate the Indian concept of secular values, not dependent on religion, such as honesty, karuna (compassion) and ahimsa (non-violence).' “Now that it is my birthday, I want to express my deep appreciation to all my friends who have really shown love, respect and trust… I can assure you that I am committed to serving humanity and working to protect the climate,” he said.
The Dalai Lama urged people to practice non-violence and be compassionate towards each other.
“I am committed to non-violence and compassion until my death. This is my offering to my friends. All my brothers and sisters should keep these two things in mind -- non-violence and compassion... On my birthday, this is my gift,” he said.
The 14th Dalai Lama has made India his home since fleeing China in 1959.
The Chinese government officials and the Dalai Lama or his representatives have not met in formal negotiations since 2010.
Beijing has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in 'separatist' activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him as a divisive figure.
However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but 'genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet' under the 'Middle-Way approach'.
China had also asserted in May that any successor to the present Dalai Lama should be approved by it, ruling out recognition to any heir nominated by the India-based Tibetan spiritual leader or by his followers.
In his tweet, Khandu, the chief minister of the state of Arunachal Pradesh that China claims to be its part, described the Tibetan spiritual leader as an 'apostle of peace' and a 'beacon of hope and light' to the world. The Indian government has maintained that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India.
'On the joyous occasion of His Holiness the 14th #DalaiLama’s birthday, my warmest wishes to the apostle of peace, beacon of hope & light to the world. I pray with deepest reverence for your excellent health & long life. May we all continue to be blessed by your love & affection,' he said.
Chief Ministers Pramod Sawant(Goa), Conrad Sangma(Meghalaya), Shivraj Singh Chouhan(Madhya Pradesh) and Amarinder Singh(Punjab) too wished the Dalai Lama.
Several ministers from states like Assam and Meghalaya also extended their birthday greetings.
President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen and Charge d’Affaires of the US in India Atul Keshap were among others who conveyed greetings to the Dalai Lama.
'Thank you for teaching us the importance of coming together to help one another through this pandemic,' the Taiwanese president tweeted. PTI MPB KR CORR GSN GSN GSN