PM Modi greets Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.   | Photo Credit: PTI


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday morning greeted the Dalai Lama in a phone call on the occasion of the Tibetan spiritual leader’s 86th birthday.

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

This is the first time Mr. Modi has publicly confirmed speaking with the Dalai Lama since he took over as Prime Minister in 2014.

Mr. Modi and the Dalai Lama have previously exchanged greetings on Twitter in 2015. Mr. Modi is also known to have spoken with the Dalai Lama on the phone previously, including to wish him on his birthday in 2019, but that call was not publicly acknowledged at the time.

The July 2019 call came amid a period of India and China trying to repair relations following the 2017 border stand-off in Doklam. Mr. Modi travelled to China for an “informal summit” with President Xi Jinping in April 2018, and Mr. Xi travelled to Mamallapuram for the second summit in October 2019.

That process of repairing the ties was derailed with the May 2020 border crisis along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the June 15, 2020 clashes in Galwan Valley, marking the worst violence on the border since 1967. The LAC crisis remains unresolved, and talks to restore the status quo appear deadlocked. India has made clear to China that relations cannot be returned to normal unless there is full disengagement and deescalation along the border.

The tweet from Mr. Modi was seen as signalling to China that relations are, under the present circumstances, to some extent in uncharted waters. The Modi government has also made it clear that investments from China will continue to receive additional scrutiny and more than 200 Chinese apps remain banned, although bilateral trade in 2020 remained largely unaffected by the tensions.

The Modi government’s approach to the Tibet question has wavered along with the ups-and-downs in its engagement with China. The Dalai Lama greeted Mr. Modi soon after his swearing-in ceremony on May 26, 2014, which was attended by then Sikyong or leader of the Tibetan “government-in-exile” Lobsang Sangay. He was not, however, invited to the swearing-in in 2019.

On Tuesday, greetings were also conveyed to the Dalai Lama by at least two Ministers on Twitter.

“Birthday greetings to the Spiritual leader, 14th DalaiLama of Tibet. May you be blessed with good health and long life,” wrote Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

“Felicitations to manifestation of Avalokiteshvara & the Bodhisattva of Compassion, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Ji on his 86th Birthday. He continues to guide humanity on the path of peace & enlightenment,” wrote Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Puri.

China on Tuesday had not yet reacted to the call.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 9:16:21 PM |

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