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Dalai Lama advocates dialogue in Kashmir

The Tibetan spiritual leader has advocated dialogue as the only way to resolve any issue during his first trip to the conflict-prone Kashmir Valley in 25 years.

The Dalai Lama, who is a state guest during his six-day stay in Jammu and Kashmir, met Tibetan refugees in the summer capital Srinagar, visited a Buddhist holy site on the outskirts of the city, and then took time off to interact with students at the Tibetan Public School.

The Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, who recently retired from active politics and last visited the Kashmir Valley in 1987, became emotional at the school where he emphasized the importance of dialogue.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets the crowd

The Dalai Lama met a crowd of supporters at the Tibetan Public School

"Kashmiri people should live peacefully and if there is any problem, dialogue is the only way (to resolve issues). Violence is in nobody's interest. A peaceful way is essential," he said.

Officials close to the spiritual leader said that he was keen on visiting the Tibetan refugee settlements as they housed people whose ancestors had gone to Tibet for trade and settled there. Many returned to Kashmir in 1960 after the invasion of Tibet by China. At that time, India had to secure their migration from the Chinese government on the basis of their Kashmiri origin.

"This is truly an emotional visit," said Limbay Tsoma, a Tibetan activist. "Even his visit to Harvan was moving. It is believed that during the ancient Buddhist period, the fourth Buddhist conference was held here and it resulted in a split of the followers into two sects."

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, center holding umbrella, accompanied by officials visits a Buddhist heritage site

The Dalai Lama is visiting places of worship across Kashmir

No word from China

The Chinese authorities have so far been tight-lipped on the Dalai Lama's visit to Kashmir, where he has been put up at the official Nehru State Guest House in a quiet and secluded location with wooded hills behind and a breathtaking view of the famous Dal Lake.

In 2009, Chinese officials had made a series of increasingly belligerent statements condemning the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang, a Tibetan town in India's Arunachal Pradesh which Beijing claims is part of China. China termed the visit as a provocative act and denounced India for allowing it to go ahead.

At that time, China also used the visit to reiterate its claim on large swathes of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

This time, "he is on a private visit," a seasoned Indian diplomat told DW on condition of anonymity. "I see no reason for any outcry or provocative statements from the Chinese side."

Political settlement still elusive

The current Dalai Lama, who is revered by many Tibetans as a "living god," has lived much of his life abroad since fleeing the Chinese Communist conquest of his homeland in 1959 and remains the emotional focus for the hopes of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans in exile.

He has long urged Beijing to accept a "middle-way" approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the framework of Chinese constitution.

Lobsang Sangay, left, the new prime minister of Tibet's government in exile, stands next to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama

Lobsang Sangay and the Dalai Lama hope to bring Beijing around to a "middle-way" approach

During celebrations for the Dalai Lama's 77th birthday last week, his first political successor, Lobsang Sangay, said that the Tibetan leadership was ready to announce special envoys to continue the dialogue process with China. The last round of talks was held in Beijing in January 2010, since when there has been a deadlock.

In the coming days the Dalai Lama plans to make pilgrimages to Muslim, Hindu and Sikh places of worship in Srinagar.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Anne Thomas

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