India, China battle it out over Buddhism
The sudden decision of India and
China to drop the meeting of their special representatives only a
day before it was scheduled in Beijing has brought a cold war on
Buddhism out in the open. China decided to drop the meeting as New
Delhi reportedly turned down its demand to keep the Dalai Lama
away from a four-day Global Buddhist Congregation
New Delhi: With China
upping the ante over the Dalai Lama issue, President Pratibha
Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh skipped the four-day
Global Buddhist Conference that began Sunday with the chanting of
prayers to mark the 2,600th year of Buddha's enlightenment.
Patil, who was invited by Asoka Mission, the organizers, to
inaugurate the conference, opted out of it as China strongly
objected to the Dalai Lama's valedictory address at the conference
A week ago, the president's office called the organisers to tell
them it may not be possible for her to attend the function, a
well-placed source told IANS.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, was invited by Asoka Mission
as guest of honour, but is understood to stayed away due to
Instead Sikkim Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh presided over the
function and Karan Singh, an eminent scholar and president of the
Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), was guest of honour
at the conference.
Around 1,000 Buddhist scholars, thinkers and followers from over
30 countries assembled at convention hall in Ashoka Hotel on day
one of the conference.
A 40-strong contingent of Chinese scholars was expected, but with
Beijing taking objection to the Dalai Lama's valedictory address,
only 7-8 Chinese Buddhist scholars have managed to come, Ashok K.
Wangdi, a member of the organizing committee of the conference,
Despite Chinese objections, India has refused to cave in. The
Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who made India his
home over five decades ago, will come to Delhi Nov 30 for the
When India conveyed to China its oft-reiterated position that the
Dalai Lama was a spiritual leader and an honored guest and was,
therefore, free to speak on spiritual matters, Beijing hardened
its stand and is said to have demanded the cancellation of the
India, however, stuck to its position, leading to the postponement
of boundary talks between special representatives of the two
countries in New Delhi which coincided with the Buddhist
"It's unfortunate, this attempt to give a political colour to a
religious functio"," said Tempa Tsering, Dalai Lama's chief
representative in New Delhi.
The Asoka Mission has strongly objected to the politicization of
"The overriding theme of the conference is to commemorate the
2,600th year of Buddha's enlightenment. The conference aims at
evolving a collective Buddhist response to pressing global
challenges like climate change, violence and pressures of modern
living," said Wangdi.
"It is first and foremost a religious event. We are very upset by
China's attempt to politcise it," he said.