Indian PM Modi wishes Dalai Lama happy birthday despite potential backlash from China

India-China tensions at play over a phone call.

Faris Alfiq | July 07, 2021, 05:20 PM

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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly sent birthday wishes to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on his 86th birthday.

As posted on Modi's Twitter account, he spoke to the 14th Dalai Lama on Tuesday (July 6) to wish him "a long and healthy life".

This is the first time since 2015 that Modi publicly sent his well wishes to Dalai Lama on his birthday, according to New Delhi-based news site The Print .

The Indian Prime Minister had not extended the exiled spiritual leader a birthday greeting last year. The country was facing a skirmishes with Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley that started in June 2020.

China frowns on any engagement with the Dalai Lama

Modi made the move despite facing potential backlash from China, observers told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

China does not recognise the Tibetan government-in-exile, and views the Dalai Lama, whose name is Lhamo Thondup, as a separatist who's intent on splitting Tibet from China.

China also disapproves of any engagement with him by foreign leaders, saying even though they are doing it in their personal capacity, they still represent their government, Reuters reported.

The military standoff between China and India are still ongoing, with both sides deploying more troops to the Himalayan border.

The Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and is traditionally responsible for the governing of Tibet, until the Chinese government took control of the area in 1959 after cracking down on an attempted uprising.

The current Dalai Lama had fled into exile in India, and had lived there since then.

Taken full advantage of India's freedom and religious harmony

In a nearly four-minute long video posted on his official Facebook page and website, the Dalai Lama mentioned that since becoming a refugee and settling down in India, he has taken full advantage of "India's freedom and religious harmony".

He added that he appreciated the "Indian concept of secular values, not dependent on religion, such as karuna (compassion) and ahimsa (non-violence)".

He further emphasised the importance of compassion and non-violence in one's life.

"In spite of my old age, my face is quite handsome,"  he added.

Top images via BIJU BORO/AFP via Getty Images and Dalai Lama/Facebook