The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has scuttled a proposal by the Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia, a central university, to award an honorary doctorate to the Dalai Lama.
The human resource development ministry has been informed that such a step would not be appropriate at this stage.
In a clear indication that it is keen to avoid angering China, which regards the exiled Tibetan leader as a traitor, the MEA has taken this position despite all other agencies involved having approved the idea.
Though the Dalai Lama has received similar honorary doctorates from at least half a dozen top international institutions, Jamia would have been the first Indian higher educational institution to confer one on him. (He is also recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize).
HRD ministry officials refused to comment but other government sources confirmed the ministry had forwarded the Jamia proposal to the MEA for clearance. University authorities had written to the HRD ministry last month saying they would like to present the degree at their convocation in November.
Tensions between China and the Dalai Lama have often threatened to affect Sino-Indian relations. China objected to the Dalai Lama’s visit last year to Arunachal Pradesh — which it claims as its territory. Earlier this year, it also objected to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Dalai Lama.
Top government sources have told HT India does not wish to worsen its relationship with China, already under stress over China’s Kashmir policy and other irritants. “Our respect for his Holiness the Dalai Lama is immense,” a source said.
The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959 when he escaped from communist China, runs the Tibetan government-in-exile from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. India officially describes him as an honoured guest and spiritual leader who is not allowed to use Indian soil for political activity.