Modi greets Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday

PM’s message is of specific significance, as it comes a year after the Galwan clashes between Indian and Chinese troops

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on the occasion of the latter’s 86th birthday on Tuesday.

This marks the first time such a direct communication has taken place between the two sides since Mr. Modi took charge in 2014.

“Spoke on phone to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to convey greetings on his 86th birthday. We wish him a long and healthy life,” said Mr. Modi’s message.

Mr. Modi has, from the beginning, incorporated Buddhist countries into the ambit of India’s ‘Buddhist diplomacy’. As part of that initiative, he has highlighted India’s Buddhist heritage while engaging countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. However, similar warmth was not visible between Mr. Modi and the Dalai Lama in the past, obviously because of Chinese sensibilities.

Cancellation of meeting

The Tibetan spiritual leader greeted Mr. Modi soon after his swearing-in ceremony on May 26, 2014. Thereafter, the Prime Minister, who engaged the Chinese leadership from the monsoon of that year, avoided a direct engagement with the Dalai Lama. On May 2 2015, a scheduled meeting between the Dalai Lama and then BJP President Amit Shah was cancelled at the last moment, as it was felt that such a meeting would be counter productive for India’s engagement with China.

China has held Dalai Lama a “splittist” or separatist as he has been the face of Tibetan resistance against Beijing’s rule.

In 2016, the 80th birthday celebration of the Dalai Lama was attended by former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The message from Mr. Modi is of specific significance, as it comes a year after the Galwan clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh where a tense situation continues to prevail between the two sides.

Apart from Mr. Modi, Chief Minister of Punjab Capt. Amarinder Singh and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also greeted the Dalai Lama. “Let us all follow his teachings of compassion and caring for others and make the world a better place,” Capt. Singh said in a message.

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