Dalai Lama Begins His Month-Long Ladakh Visit

The spiritual leader Dalai Lamai’s visit to Ladakh is expected to rile China as it comes amid the military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at several friction points in eastern Ladakh.

Dalai Lama Begins His Month-Long Ladakh Visit

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Friday began his month-long visit to Ladakh and said India-China border disputes should be resolved through "talks and peaceful means" as use of military is an outdated option.

The spiritual leader's visit to Ladakh is expected to rile China as it comes amid the military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at several friction points in eastern Ladakh.

A top government functionary said the visit of the Dalai Lama to Ladakh was a "completely religious" one, and no one should have any objections to the tour.

"India and China are most populated countries and neighbours. Sooner or later, you have to solve this problem (border disputes along the Line of Actual Control) through talks and peaceful means," the Dalai Lama told reporters in Jammu before leaving for Ladakh.

"Use of military force is outdated now," he said.

The government functionary said it is not for the first time that the Dalai Lama is visiting a border region. He said the spiritual leader has been to Ladakh as well Arunachal Pradesh several times in the past.

"The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader and his visit to Ladakh is completely religious. Why should anyone have objections to the tour," the government functionary said.

Earlier this month, China criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for greeting the Dalai Lama on his 87th birthday, saying India should stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs.

However, India rejected the criticism and asserted it is a consistent policy to treat the Dalai Lama as an honoured guest of the country. 

This is the Dalai Lama's first visit outside Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh in the last two years as he was mostly confined to the hill station due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Dalai Lama had visited Ladakh in the past. He had visited Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) too but he could not undertake any visit in the last two years due to the pandemic," the functionary said.

The 14th Dalai Lama was given rousing reception in Leh as hundreds of people stood up on the two sides of road to welcome his cavalcade from Leh airport to Jivetsal Photang.

In Jammu, he avoided a question on Kashmir issue and said, "It is complicated issue. I do not know about it".

Replying to another question about objections raised by China to his visit in Ladakh, he said this is usual but Chinese people have not objected to it.

"Some Chinese hardliners consider me separatist and reactionary. They always criticise me", he said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader said the Chinese people have now realised that the Dalai Lama is not a separatist.

As far as meaningful autonomy and Tibetan Buddhist culture preservation is concerned, he said, more Chinese people are showing respect for Tibetan Buddhism.

In a message to the world, the Dalai Lama said there is no point to fight each other. "The fight happens due to 'my nation, my country, my idealogy (thinking)'. That is too narrow-minded an approach." 

He said people live together whether one likes or dislikes it. "These are little family problems too as all human beings are all brothers and sisters," he said. 

On Thursday, the Tibetan spiritual leader said in Jammu 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, more Chinese are realising that the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence and only wishing China (to give) meaningful autonomy (to Tibet) and (ensure) preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture," the spiritual leader said.

The Dalai Lama has been living in India ever since he fled Tibet in 1959. The Tibetan government-in-exile operates from India and over 1,60,000 Tibetans live in the country. 

(With PTI inputs)