The Dalai Lama Isn’t Cutting The Ice Like He Used To.

The 14th Dalia Lama on his escape to freedom 60 years ago. The anniversary of this internationally important event has been ably muffled by the Chinese and does not seem to have resonated to a new generation.

It is rather surprising to me that the anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s escape from Chinese controlled Tibet slipped by with little more than a murmur this spring. It’s been 60 years since 17-31 March 1959. A significant moment in world history.

During a year that should have been celebrating a landmark event, the central figure has come under fire not only by his traditional enemy but former allies as well. And with politics in such a mess in Europe, a pitiless mob; eager for blood online & an all-you-can-eat feeding frenzy on all things Trump, few major editorials & fewer world leaders seem to have tested China’s rhetoric defences.

Over half a century has passed since Tibetan Exile began. And though the event will have been marked in Dharamsala, around the world, the conversation is subdued. There seems little interest in looking at how India & China’s Tibetan policies began, have gone & where they might go.

At the beginning of the year Beijing seemed to be expecting trouble. From what is online I can see that the Chinese were so worried about foreign tourism surrounding the anniversary that they closed the border of Tibet. [1]

In an effort to head off bad press & contend with critics in the thorny question of who has the right to appoint the 15th Dalai Lama, the China Daily openly criticised HH & his comments on his successor & praised Beijing’s enlightened stance towards Tibet [2]

Indeed they’ve been laying down a counter narrative minefield since 2018 in anticipation of large scale press & popular backlash. [3]

It would seem that Beijing beat everyone to the punch. Creating a story centred upon their accusations of rabble rousing in Dharamsala & a hypocritical Dalai Lama. Adding to their relentless bombardment of anti Dalai Lama rhetoric and mockery and niftily sidestepping the historical events of 60 years ago. [4]

His Holiness the Dalia Lama and Prime Minister Nehru. The relationship was complicated but the PM’s eagerness for the new republic to stand up to China, and indeed utilise the political clout of their exiled guest is no longer evident in nationalist controlled modern India.

A whole generation has grown up with only a passive intellectual connection to Tibetan Exile. The web eagerly turned on HH this summer over a misstep, in a news storm that drowned the coverage of his fight for freedom & lifetime of good works. [5]

Unfortunately HH’a message of compassion just isn’t cutting the ice like it used to and doesn’t seem to be resonating with people the way it did before. Though still a respected religious leader, his political clout seems increasingly on the wane.

No 60 years of dedicated humanitarian service is protection against a single slip of a 84 year old 2nd language tongue. More worryingly it shows us again how time erodes  the meaning of history through generations.

In a geopolitical sense as well, China’s push to become the inherited caretakers of an international Bhuddist community is not being countered as stolidly by an increasingly exclusive India as it once was. [6]

Ironically the rise of Hindu nationalism in India is at odds with the support of Tibetan nationalism and breeds a disinterest in competing with China for the support of Asian Bhuddists. In March 2018 Indian officials were instructed to keep clear of a Tibetan nationalist rally, a sure sign that Beijing’s threats are being taken seriously.

With the current Dalai Lama in his 84th year, the rise of global nationalism, an India that wishes closer ties with China & a harsher press & social media climate, perhaps it’s no surprise that very few outside the old-guard hurried to cheer his historic escape to freedom in exile. [7]

  • Sources retrieved July 2019.
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