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Dalai Lama arrives to a grand welcome in Ladakh as India and China get ready for another round of border talks

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama being welcomed upon his arrival in Leh on Friday afternoon (Image courtesy: Twitter/@tashi_gyalson)

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was accorded a grand welcome upon his arrival in Ladakh Friday afternoon on what is his first trip outside his residence in Himachal Pradesh's Dharmashala since the emergence of the global Covid-19 pandemic and one which could also cause some unease in neighbouring China.

Leh was in a festive mood as people gathered at the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport to welcome the 14th Dalai Lama who is visiting the region after a gap of four years.

Hundreds of Tibetans lined up on both sides of the road as the Dalai Lama's motorcade passed through. 

The Dalai Lama has only granted virtual and in-person audiences in Dharmashala until now since the outbreak of Covid-19. The Tibetan exile administration said that in April, he granted an audience to Thiksay Rinpoche of Thiksay Monastery and former MP Thupten Tsewang, Current President of Ladakh Buddhist Association upon whose request he agreed to visit Ladakh. 

As he left his residence in Dharmashala at the crack of dawn on Thursday, hundreds of Tibetans and devotees had lined up in queues to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama. 

On Thursday, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Chairman Tashi Gyalson also reviewed the preparation at Lingshed, Skumpata Gongma, Neraks and Photoskar for Yarchos Chenmo – the Summer Buddhist Council – which will be held in August this year under the leadership of the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Ladakh's Member of Parliament Jamyang Tsering Namgyal also conducted an inspection of the teaching ground and Photang Geyphel-ling at Jive-Tsal, Choglamsar to review the final preparations before the Dalai Lama's arrival. 


Interestingly, the Dalai Lama's visit to the Union Territory is taking place just before the 16th round of Corps Commander-level meeting between India and China which is likely to be held on Sunday to discuss disengagement from friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

Last week, as China criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for wishing the Dalai Lama on his 87th birthday, New Delhi had made it clear that it has been a consistent policy of the government to treat the spiritual leader as a guest in India.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) on Thursday slammed criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishing Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on his 87th birthday a day ago. said it has been a consistent policy of the government to treat the Dalai Lama as a guest in India.

"The PM did speak with Dalai Lama last year also, it has been a consistent policy of our government to treat him as a guest in India and as a respected religious leader who enjoys a large following in India," said Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs. 

It is not the first time though that the revered religious leader is visiting Ladakh.

In the past too, Beijing has objected to the Dalai Lama's visit to border areas, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, saying that it causes "serious damage" to the bilateral ties.

India, meanwhile, has clearly stated on several occasions that the Dalai Lama is also deeply respected by the Indian people and no additional colour should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India.

En route to Ladakh, the Dalai Lama said in Jammu on Thursday that more and more people in China are beginning to realise that he is not seeking independence but meaningful autonomy and preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist culture.

"Some Chinese hardliners consider me a separatist and a reactionary and always criticise me. But now, most of them are realising that the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence and only wishing China meaningful autonomy and preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture," he said.

He advocated resolution to all disputes through dialogue, saying that all human beings are equal and they need to rise above the narrow-minded approach of “my nation, my ideology" which is the main trigger for fights among people.