In 2000, a 14-year-old Tibetan monk Ogyen Trinley Dorje surfaced in India, claiming to be the 17th Karmapa, a potential successor to the Dalai Lama. He remained under the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies which suspected him to be a China plant.
Last year, Ogyen, 26, hit the headlines when a raid on his Gyuto monastery in Dharamsala yielded around R6 crore in currencies of 26 countries.
It looked like the allegations would handicap his claims to the spiritual and political leadership of the Tibetans. But on April 24, the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh dropped all charges against Ogyen. The sudden leniency that intrigued many is part of a shift in India's thinking on Tibet — a major irritant in ties with China — suggest document accessed by HT.
Rather than restraining him, India now wants to engage him.
Not only has Ogyen been let off the hook, he as also been allowed to travel abroad.
His trust, which came under scrutiny after Rs 1 crore was seized from a jeep last year leading to the raid, will get a temporary registration under the foreign contribution (regulation) act, marking an abrupt change in India's position.
Documents show that the prime minister's office (PMO) on February 21 decided on the course in line with a policy of engaging Ogyen approved last year by the cabinet committee on security. During the meeting, which was chaired by national security adviser Shivashankar Menon, an old China hand, and attended by secretaries of home, external affairs and R&AW and IB director, the PMO also decided to extend “further overtures” to Ogyen, based on inputs concerning his role.
Intelligence agencies have been insisting that Ogyen is working as Beijing's nominee to gain influence on monastries in the sensitive Indo-Himalayan belt along the China border.
Ogyen is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Karmapa is one of the highest figures in Tibetan Buddhism along with Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.
Even as the Dalai Lama keeps cards close to his chest on his successor and China insists on selecting a “re-incarnation” in Tibet, the issue of the next Karmapa is a hotly debated one.