Chinese delegation could attend Buddhist meet in Delhi this year

by Rajeev Deshpande, TNN, May 14, 2013

NEW DELHI, India -- One-and-a-half years after China rescheduled border talks in a huff over Dalai Lama addressing a global Buddhist meet in Delhi, there are indications of a thaw with the Chinese expressing an interest in the Indian effort to organize another meet this year.

China has worked strenuously to present itself as the main pole of the Buddhist world by backing an ambitious development plan for Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha in Nepal, and organizing major meets on its soil.

 The success of the Indian global Buddhist conference in November 2011, organized by the Asoka mission, took the Chinese by surprise as major religious leaders who head the Theravada sects in countries like South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam attended the meet.

Sore at India's refusal to deny the Dalai Lama an opportunity to speak at the meeting, China put off its forthcoming border talks, icily informing India that it regards giving the religious leader a major platform as a hostile act.

The jousting for the Buddhist mantle saw India reclaiming its natural advantage of being Buddha's "karma bhoomi" with its myriad monuments and historical treasures associated with the religious leader.

A long period of no contact marked by mutual suspicion ended with China's "official" agencies sending feelers that they will like to meet Asoka mission head Lama Lobsang.

This led to a meeting between Xiao Wunan, executive vice chairman of Asia Pacific exchange and cooperation foundation, an NGO supported by the Chinese government, with Lama Lobsang in Malaysia a few months ago.

Xiao is seen as a communist party cadre and is one of the moving lights behind the Lumbini plan. At the meeting, he is understood to have expressed the willingness to consider the possibility of a Chinese delegation attending the next meet in India slated for later this year.

"We did discuss the possibility of China participating in the global Buddhist meet although we are yet to receive any formal communication," Lama Lobsang said.

The stumbling block is obvious. If the Dalai Lama were to again be a major participant - he is one of the patrons - any official or semi-official participation by the Chinese will be difficult.

However, Chinese authorities are aware that despite denying permission to monks keen to participate in the 2011 meeting, a dozen or so managed to evade scrutiny and made it to India.

These monks came to India in advance of the meeting on tourist visas and attended the Delhi deliberations. They were questioned on their return to China but not unduely harassed. It is possible that the Chinese may find a creative way to dispatch a Buddhist delegation to the Indian meeting slated for September.