Dalai Lama. Photograph:( Reuters )
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama is a catch for India-china relations. India's approach towards him has always been a marker for its changing relations with Beijing.
Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibet, he headed the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.
The Tibetan leader has lived in India for over 60 years now but China calls him "a wolf in monk's clothes".
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama is a catch for India-China relations. India's approach towards him has always been a marker for its changing relations with Beijing.
When India and China are close, Delhi limits its engagement with the Dalai Lama but when there are tensions, Delhi toasts him.
Today is one such day. It is the 85th birthday of the Dalai Lama with several prominent people wishing him on his birthday.
RK Mathur, Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, tweeted praying for his good health. Pema Khandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh also wished him happiness and a long life.
This day marks the 85th birth anniversary of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama @DalaiLama.— Office of the Lt. Governor, Ladakh (@lg_ladakh) July 6, 2020
I pray for his good health and #longevity.
In these difficult times, his spiritual leadership gives strength: Lt. Governor @R_K_Mathur.#DalaiLama #Ladakh pic.twitter.com/B68g0aBn0c
Cabinet minister Kiren Rijiju offered his reverence and prayers. Rijiju's tweet was also a reflection of the Indian prime minister's message in Ladakh.
On the auspicious occasion of the 85th birthday of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama, I offer my deepest reverence, prayers, and wishes for his long and healthy life. His values and ideals are the guiding light towards love, peace and compassion for entire humanity. pic.twitter.com/eu9Jw1jgLt— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) July 6, 2020
Peace and compassion, contrasting the :age of expansionism".
China is watching all of this closely.
In 2014, when prime minister Modi first took office, he invited the head of Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay to his swearing-in ceremony.
In 2019, no such invitation was extended. In 2016, then President Pranab Mukherjee felicitated the Dalai Lama. In 2018, Delhi denied permission for "thank you India" events-- these were to mark 60 years of the Dalai Lama's arrival in India.
Delhi did not allow them, top government officials were told to distance themselves from the occasion.
The reason given was this that it was a very sensitive time for India's relations with China.
It was just after the Doklam standoff and the Wuhan summit with ties with the Dragon on the mend which were strained two years later in the wake of the Galwan Valley clash.
Now in probably the most sensitive time for India-China relations and what better way to send China a message than through engagements with the Dalai Lama.
Some in India want this message to be stronger. Like giving the Dalai Lama India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, while others suggest he should feature on the Chinese embassy's address and others say Delhi's Shanti Path should be renamed Dalai Lama Marg.
The government has not ventured beyond Birthday greetings. The message has reached both Dharamsala and Bejing.