Newly inaugurated Kushinagar International Airport. Image: Twitter/@PIB

 By N.S.Venkataraman

Prime Minister of India Narendra  Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh, which would connect the key Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.

Kushinagar is believed to be the final resting place of Gautam Buddha and therefore, is an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination.  The government of India is especially focussing on the development of places associated with Lord Buddha through better connectivity and the creation of facilities for devotees to visit the Buddhist pilgrimage centres in India. Lumbini, the birthplace of  Lord  Buddha, is not far from Kushinagar.  Sarnath, where Lord Buddha gave the first sermon is also within a radius of around 150 kilometres from Kushinagar.  Bodh Gaya, where Buddha attained enlightenment, is also a few hours drive from Kushinagar.

Certainly, India has done great service to the cause of the Buddhist religion by facilitating the Buddhist devotees to visit and pay their respects to Lord Buddha. This is particularly so since the Buddhist devotees everywhere in the world desire to visit the birthplace of Lord Buddha and pray there at least once in their lifetime.

A large contingent of Buddhist monks from different countries was invited for the inaugural programme of Kushinagar airport.

Buddhist monks and diplomats from twelve countries with predominant Buddhist populations namely  Sri Lanka, South Korea, Nepal, Singapore, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Bhutan, Cambodia and    Thailand participated in the inaugural function.

What is conspicuous is that the respected the Dalai Lama, one of the tallest and most respected Buddhist monks in the world today,  was not present in the programme. It is suspected that the Dalai Lama was not invited for the programme. If he has been invited, the Dalai Lama certainly would have attended the programme, since it would facilitate the Buddhist pilgrims to visit various Buddhist pilgrim centres.

While the media mentioned about the Buddhist monks and delegates from twelve Buddhist countries attending the programme, there has been no mention about the Buddhist monks in good number from Tibet being part of the attendees.

Tibet is a Buddhist region with great tradition and philosophy reflecting the virtues of Lord Buddha’s teachings. There are several historical Buddhist shrines in Tibet.

Unfortunately,  China aggressively entered Tibet several years back, massacred thousands of Tibetan protestors and is now occupying and ruling the region with an iron hand.

India has done the historical and grave mistake of recognising Tibet as part of China. Millions of Indians are very unhappy about the Government of India’s ethically and morally wrong decision to approve China’s occupation of Tibet.

China is now one of the biggest adversaries for India in the world, which is very clear from China’s several observations and acts against India’s interests in the last several years. China is occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and claims Arunachal Pradesh in India as part of China.  The Chinese army is frequently intruding into Indian territory and in the process, several Indian soldiers have lost their lives in recent times.

Many in India today think that China will start a war with India sooner or later, to fulfil its territorial expansion ambitions.

Even in such circumstances, the Government of India appears to be trying to keep China in good humour and is frequently discussing with China about the border disputes,  to avoid a war-like situation with China. Many people in India think that this is an appeasement policy since China is not reciprocating India’s gestures.

By denying the invitation to the Dalai Lama for the inauguration of Kushinagar international airport, it is obvious that  India wants to ensure that  China would not be displeased.  China would have certainly protested if the Dalai Lama have been invited for the programme, as it has been protesting even when any Indian official would meet the Dalai Lama.

This episode of India not inviting the  Dalai Lama to this important inaugural programme, which was of great interest to the Buddhists all over the world, clearly show that Indian Prime Minister Modi has not acted as per his conscience and with the courage of conviction.  Mr Modi has merely acted like an ordinary politician with priority for political expediency and deliberately not inviting the great and elderly Buddhist monk the Dalai Lama, who has been living in India not very far away from Kushinagar for several decades.

 To this extent, by not ensuring the presence of the Dalai Lama in this important programme where several Buddhist monks from various countries were present, Prime Minister Modi has lost his much earned positive image as a principled leader, to some extent.

Certainly, we hear the thundering silence of Tibetans around the world craving for free  Tibet, as to why Mr Modi is not supporting the cause of free Tibet by standing up to China and censuring China for occupying Tibet unethically.

Venkataraman is a trustee with the “Nandini Voice for the Deprived,” a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and supports their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

The views expressed in this article are that of the author’s and should not be attributed to Tibet Express.

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