The Dalai Lama Urges Greater Cooperation Between China and India
Earlier this week, at an event in Delhi, the Dalai Lama urged for closer cooperation between China and India, observing that the two countries shared not only a common spiritual heritage (Buddhism), but also similar interests in Asia: both nations have large populations, increasingly complex societies, and hungry economies. “I think, a great potential. . . . India and China combined are doing more compassionate work. . . . At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he said. Alluding to the standoff on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan from June to August, he warned “Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side.” (oneindia.com)
The 82-year-old Vajrayana leader noted that no one in their heart of hearts wants violence, yet it was happening because people’s minds are “dominated by destructive emotions” caused by “shortsightedness.” “Nobody wants problems,” he said, “Yet, many problems are our own creation.” (oneindia.com) On Monday, the Dalai Lama arrived in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state of Odisha (also a once-thriving region for Indian tantric Buddhism), and elaborated to the press: “India and China need each other. They can settle all the issues amicably. People of both the countries should live peacefully and help each other.” (The Telegraph India)
The Dalai Lama has, since the start of his exile in Dharamshala, attempted to walk a diplomatic tightrope between the geopolitical interests of his Indian benefactors, the Chinese concern surrounding separatism, and his Western friends and students, who are mostly sympathetic to the cause of expanded Tibetan autonomy. He has often invoked the Indian antecedents of Vajrayana Buddhism and the debt to South Asia owed by the tantric tradition.
In his speech on Sunday he praised the “Nalanda tradition,” which denotes the teachings transmitted by influential masters who taught or studied at the former super-monastery (Nalanda), including Shantarakshita, Dignaga, and Dharmakirti: “All thinkers of Nalanda are Indians. So, the Nalanda’s tradition [sic] is India’s tradition. The Nalanda tradition had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful, and non-violent people.” (oneindia)
India and China have a common interest in Nalanda via Xuanzang (c. 602–664), who undertook a taxing pilgrimage to India for the sole purpose of bringing the authentic Yogacara and other Mahayana schools’ scriptures back to Chang’an during the Tang Dynasty. The Xuanzang Memorial is the most significant monument in modern history that recognizes this shared religious interest across space and time. The memorial was built in 2007, and holds a relic of Xuanzang himself. On 12 January 1957, the relic was bestowed on statesman Jawaharlal Nehru by the Dalai Lama, but notably he did so at the request of Chinese premier Zhou Enlai.
While those hopeful days of détente seem somewhat distant, the Dalai Lama has so far refused to be drawn into the more recent geopolitical rifts between China and India by remaining silent on all Sino-Indian border disputes from March until August. This was despite the fact that the Indian government sent him to several disputed border areas, including Arunachal Pradesh, to give speeches and empowerments. Regardless of the cool reactions to each other’s diplomatic Buddhist outreach (which for China takes the form of the Chinese Dream policy and the Belt and Road Initiative, while Modi is working through India’s Ministry of Culture and the government-funded International Buddhist Confederation), Sino-Indian relations have remained politically stable, and the two countries remain major economic partners and stakeholders in regional peace.
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Frenemies? Why Dalai Lama wants India, China to work together (oneindia.com)
Dalai Lama for better Sino-Indian relations (The Telegraph India)