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Former diplomat Stobdan’s comments on Dalai Lama spark row, Leh markets shut on Monday

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New Delhi: Former Indian diplomat Phunchok Stobdan’s comments on Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama on TV news channel in the backdrop of the ongoing border tensions between India and China have irked the Thiksey and Diskit monasteries in Ladakh, which have demanded an “unconditional apology” from him.

The Merchant Association of Leh has also called him out for “hurting the sentiments” of Buddhists, and called a strike Monday in a “display of solidarity”.

What Stobdan said

Stobdan, India’s former Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, had raised questions about the Dalai Lama’s silence on China’s transgressions in eastern Ladakh.

“Dalai Lama has to speak and cannot keep focussing on his prayers while China eats away the land (in Ladakh). It doesn’t work like that. We have let him create a government in Dharamsala. He should offer a clarification that this is not Tibet’s land; it is India’s,” Stobdan had said during a show on Hindi news channel Aaj Tak Friday.

“Is he doing it in collaboration with China? What is it? There is some confusion in the strategy,” Stobdan had said.

He questioned the real motive behind China’s attempt to cross the LAC, especially in the Galwan river valley.

“The question is why are Chinese coming there? Who told them it is their land? Chinese are far from there. That land belongs to the Tibetans. Why is Dalai Lama sitting idle in Dharamsala? Why is he not explaining it? He his hiding,” said Stobdan, also the author of the book The Great Game in the Buddhist Himalayas: India and China’s Quest for Strategic Dominance.

He added that China wants to “change the narrative” by attempting to push the LAC through repeated transgressions.

“We (India) also want to do it (change the narrative). We also decided that after abrogating Article 370 we will take Aksai Chin. This is not about LAC… We kept talking about it but never made any progress. But they kept coming in,” Stobdan said.

“Not anymore. LAC is a perception. This is going on for the last 70 years. We will not tolerate this anymore,” he said.

Stobdan alleged that the real reason why the Chinese are now reacting is because “we have now become offensive, because we are now building roads, constructing infrastructure there and doing deployment. This is our Forward Policy and we need to be firm on this. If we have to fight we will, if we have to die we are ready for it”.

‘Highly objectionable’

The Thiksey and Diskit monasteries issued a statement Sunday, calling Stobdan’s statements “highly objectionable” and demanding an “unconditional apology”.

“His Holiness (Dalai Lama) is not only an epitome of peace and ambassador of humanity, but also the most respected spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands of Buddhists around the world,” the monasteries said in a press release.

The Merchant Association of Leh has called a strike and decided to close down all shops there Monday as “a symbolic display of solidarity”.

“We condemn such usage of blasphemous language hurting the sentiments of all Buddhist communities around the world,” the association said.

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