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Dalai Lama and International Relations Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 30th, 2019


The Dalai Lama is the Tibetan Buddhist religious official leader. According to Richardson (1984), he is regarded as the reincarnation of the tulkus and has been coming in every generation as the bodhisattva manifestation. Also to be noted is that he is regardless as the embodiment of compassion, and is seen as an ocean of wisdom as the high priest or chief by his followers (Srilankadotcom 1978).

The Dalai Lama is a religious leader of the greatest height to his people and his leadership is highly esteemed. Like those who have been reincarnated before him, he continues their mission of enlightening people and bringing spiritual wisdom (Avedon 1997). One way that the Dalai Lama brings this about is through the Gelug school and monasteries (Richardson 1984). Although he is not the official leader of the school, he appoints the leader and gives the school guidance so that it can achieve its purpose.

Brief history

The position of the Dalai Lama in the past has been used to govern the Tibetan government. This chiefly occurred since the reincarnation until mid twentieth century. According to Richardson (1984), during early 17th century, there were power clashes between various factions and Tibet.

The dominant Manchu wanted the destruction of Yellow hat Sect in Tibet and the fight was long leading to the destruction of the Manchu’s family (Richardson 1984). Gushi Khna fought on the side of the Tibet Yellow hats and in the process, Tibet got a leader to protect it and to protect its religion (Richardson 1984).

However, since mid century, the 14th Dalai Lama has been in administration of the Central Tibetan Administration (Richardson 1984). This administration has been in exile since 1959. There has been considerable conflict between the Tibetan Administration and Chinese government.

Foreign relations

The current Dalai Lama was installed amid pressure from China. China was hoping to squelch the demands for sovereignty of Tibet under the Dalai Lama (Sautman 2010). China attacked the Dalai Lama’s supporters and the Dalai Lama in 1959 escaped from Tibet, going into exile in India where he was offered protection by India’s government. From there, he has continued to head a government that lives in exile (Sautman 2010).

Much of the world has not been conversant with the situation in Tibet or the Dalai Lama himself. This is largely owing Tibet’s isolation (Srilankadotcom 1978). Little of its political situation was known as it lived in China’s shadow.

However, much has come to be known about Tibet through the Dalai Lama visiting different countries and introducing his ideas on intyernational relations as well as sound governance (Dalai 1997). There has been great tension between China and Tibet as China sought out more ways to bring the powers of the Dalai Lama down, and to be more involved in the selection of the Dalai Lamas (Sautman 2010).

The issue of Tibet and China has been put in the spotlight due to the conflict witnessed. Additionally, it has happened because of the international attention that Tibet’s efforts for independence has been getting. Of great international concern are two relations; Sino-US and Sino-Indian.

Dalai Lama’s thoughts on international relations

The Dalai Lama has been consistent in the pledge for world peace as the way forward. The Buddhism ideals are peace, use of resources equitably and justice (Dalai 1997). According to him, the people in the world are not more hateful than they always were but rather there are new ways in which threats have been created. The Dalai (1997) teaches that world peace can only be attained if people are focused on others and not themselves.

There will never be a time when people’s personal needs will stop. But it is in reaching out to others that people can find meaning, happiness and peace (Dalai 1997). The problem of one people can be understood to be the problem of all people. In this way those who are in a position to help should so as it is their obligation to increase harmony in the world.

The Dalai (2001), especially calls for disarmament so that people can work in more harmony. With the threat of weapons of destruction people grow suspect of one another instead of looking for genuine ways to help each other. Alliances are formed but in the end there is more disharmony.

According to Dalai (1997), democracy is at the heart of growth and development. When a society can question and express its ideas then all humanity benefits. Democracy allows nations to grow in themselves and towards better international relations (Dalai 1997).

According to the Dalai Lama although the problems of the world appear complex, they do not have to be dealt with all at once. Progress made in one area should be welcome in other so as to yield similar results. Dalai Lama has used his ideas in dealing with the case of Tibet. He advocates for dialogue which he believes is the way towards lasting solutions. When nations can agree on issues without pressure the results are lasting relationships because the agreements are mutual and can withstand time.

India, China and Tibet

According to China Tibet Information Center (CTIC), China is unhappy with India’s use of the Tibet issue to get involved in the internal concerns of China (2010). This is especially frustrating for China which would have wanted to count on India’s support, after their agreement on ways of keeping peace between the two countries.

The Dalai Lama, however, feels that it is only when nations reach a greater outlook than they can relate better. Nations is Asia should not look after each other’s interest even when they are wrong. The guiding principles should be doing what is just or right.

US, China and Tibet

With regards to the Sino-US relations, China cites the increasing anti-China stance that the United States has been taking. It is especially the relationship that the US has with the Dalai Lama and his cause, that will aid or hurt the relationship between China and the US. China feels that the US from the mid 90s has been using other nations neighboring China to guard its interests.

According to the Dalai Lama justice should be defended by all as it is an international concern (Dalai 2001). No nation should feel isolated. While the world has been largely unaware of the Tibet situation they are becoming more involved. This is right as injustice should be fought in every corner of the world. Sometimes those who are oppressed may not be strong enough to advocate their case.

Those who can lend aid should not shy away from the responsibility to reach out. According to CTIC (2010), the issue of Tibet keeps coming up in the communications between China and the US and in all indication; it will not go away until the issue is resolved, putting pressure on China.

Other nations, China and Tibet

Although much has been said about China and Tibet in relation to the US, other nations also come into the picture. One of the reasons why Tibet has gotten more support and its interest has become widely known, is because of the human rights violations that the Dalai Lama has indicated the Chinese government is propagating (Avedon 1997).

The Dalai Lama believes in the dignity of persons which should not be undermined by violations of their human rights (Dalai 1991). According to Global Security (2000-10), these claims have become an issue of interest to the international community. China has done its best to show that there are no violations of human rights, and to show that the Tibet issue is an internal issue without need of international intervention (Avedon 1997).

According to CTIC (2010), the thoughts of Chinese scholars are that those loyal to the Dalai Lama are using illegitimate claims in the hopes of attracting international support, especially from the Western countries. That they seek to bring the Western ideologies to Asia. These claims come in the form of religious freedom, environmental protection and human rights (CTIC 2010).

However, the Dalai Lama outlook is not invested in ideologies or theories. Rather, his ideas are on what can be fundamentally acceptable to all persons (Dalai 1997). The Dalai Lama is accused of presenting himself as human activist, though China also places blame on the Westerners who are supporting him with money and the platforms from which to attack China. The Dalai Lama denies personal interest in his crusade (Avedon 1997)

According to Human Rights Watch (2001), other countries have expressed sympathy for Tibet. The EU has constantly brought up the issue of the death penalty, for example, and asked that China abolish it (Human Right Watch 2001). China has largely ignore the request, meaning that many of those arrested from Tibet face the death penalty. Australia has also urged China to consider Tibet’s proposals to bring about a quick end to the situation.

For sometime now, Japan’s relationship with China has been strained as Japan continues to allow the Dalai Lama to visit during his exile. This is contrary to what China expects from Japan. However, Japan has continued to relate well with China while accepting Tibet’s unique need for autonomy (Human Rights Watch 2001).

International organizations like the World Bank and the UN continue to work with China especially to address the cases of refugees, treatment of prisoners, allowing foreigners access to Tibet and funding programs for the development of Tibet and other regions in need (Human Rights Watch 2001).

Development of Tibet and international relations

It is know that the Dalai Lama has challenged China in the context of development of Tibet which is far behind the rest of China, especially the eastern part (Avedon 1997). According to the Dalai (1997), development is one of the causes of conflict in the world. If development can be pursued so that people have enough to eat and for their needs, all can live in peace.

China has responded by stating its belief in the importance of development and stability in Tibet (Fairclough 2009). Development of Tibet will lead to more stability and some of the issues will finally be easily resolved. China claims that Tibet has not made much progress despite the high levels of assistance it has been receiving. It is in the hope of development that China is plans to increasingly open Tibet to the international world, in order to facilitate business.

However, according to China’s government, while it has been investing in economic, social and political development of Tibet, the Dalai Lama has been interested in removing Tibet from China without concern for Tibet’s long-term welfare (CTIC 2010). The Dalai Lama has been accused by China of using India as the back yard, from which youngsters can train and return to Tibet under his leadership.

His worship has also been cited as a tool China, as it allows him to use monasteries to assert his power over the regions where the monasteries are founded (CTIC 2010). However the Dalai has been involved in the teaching as a way of enlightenment which he believes leads to betterment of a person (Dalai 1991).

It should be noted that the development of Tibet is certainly important to China’s security, especially with India, as it will secure the India-China border (Human Rights Watch, 2001). This could lead to better relations and fewer refugees. If Tibet advances in development, China suspects that the Dalai Lama could lose some of the support that he enjoys. But in order to move forward, Tibet needs to overhaul its economic system and be involved in global economic systems.

The international community would largely like to see Tibet get recognition as an autonomous state (Dambaugh 2001). The US has been especially supportive of Tibet and has engaged China in talks aimed at Tibet gaining autonomy and conducting its international affairs (Dambaugh 2001).

Dalai Lama and the future of Tibet as an autonomous state

The US State Department annual report on Tibet negotiations in 2010 presented the remarks of the Dalai Lama’s special envoy Lodi Gyari. According to Lodi (2010), the future of Tibet is heavily invested in Dalai Lama and he has been actively involved in negotiations with China.

His believe in the rights and cause of the Tibet people has illuminated the way other nations can approach conflict (Dalai 1997). The international community has been supporting Tibet, hoping for a resolution which will be mutually beneficial and acceptable to both China and Tibet (Lodi 2010).

The issue of Tibet continues to be one of importance to international relations (Alling 1997). It will determine how the future will pan out for China and Tibet, and their standings on the international level (Thurman 2008).


Thurman (2008) states that the Dalai Lama is an important part of Tibet’s issue in that he is taken as the leaders of Tibet. Other countries in Asia would prefer a positive resolving on the Tibet issue to guarantee stability in Asia. Of particular importance is what will happen between India and China. Both countries are growing in power and conflict between the countries could have dire consequences on peace in Asia. It is therefore imperative for China and the Dalai Lama to reach an agreement on the Tibet issue.


Alling, G., (1997) Economic liberalization and separatist nationalism: the cases of Sri- Lanka and Tibet. Journal of International Affairs, 51(1), 117-145.

Avedon, J. (1997) In exile from the land of snows: the definitive account of the Dalai Lama and Tibet since the Chinese conquest. New York: Harper perennial.

China Tibet Information Center (CTIC). (2010) International relations vs. Tibetan issue. Web.

Dalai, L., (1991) Freedom in exile: The autobiography of the Dalai Lama. New York, NY: Harper One.

Dalai, L., (1997). My Land My people: the original autobiography of his holiness the Dalai lama of Tibet. New York: Grand central Publishing.

Dalai, L., (2001) Ethics for the new millennium. New York, NY: Riverhead books. Dambaugh, K., (2001) Tibet, China and the 107 Congress: issues for US policy. Congress Research Service Report for Congress. RL 30983.

Fairclough, G., (2009) . (Online)

Global Security. (2000-10) . Web.

Human Rights Watch., (2001) . Web.

Laird, T. (2006) The story of Tibet: conversations with the Dalai Lama. New York: Grove press.

Lodi, G., (2010) The way forward on Tibet. Web.

Richardson, H., (1984) Tibet and its history. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Sautman, B., (2010) Tibet’s putative statehood and international law. Chinese Journal of International Law. 9 (1), pp. 127-142.

Smith, W., (2008) China’s Tibet?: autonomy or assimilation. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Srilankadotcom. (1978) Tibet. The Tibet Journal. 3 (4), pp. 13-16.

Thurman, A. E., (2008) Why the Dalai Lama matters: his act of truth as the solution for China, Tibet and the world. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words.

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