While the Central government is trying to get Tibetan spiritual leader Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to return from the United States, Indian agencies have flagged the fact that he possesses a Dominican Republic passport and indicated that it was a reason behind the move to remove him from security watch-list.
Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, has laid down conditions for his return to India, including withdrawal of travel restrictions and requirement for him to get permission from New Delhi to travel abroad.
“The government has asked the Karmapa to return…he has conveyed that he will come back in November,” a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Wednesday.
The Karmapa, the source said, is upset that he has to take permission every time he wants to travel, unlike the Dalai Lama, who is free to travel anywhere without restriction.
The Dominican Republic passport offers individuals and families worldwide an irrevocable second citizenship and passport in four to six months, with no visit to the country required. A passport from the Caribbean island-nation also provides visa-free or visa on arrival access to more than 115 countries, including the entire European Union, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Officials said Dorje got Dominican Republic passport since many countries do not recognise the Residential Certificate (RC) issued by India to Tibetan refugees.
In 2015, the Narendra Modi government reviewed the earlier Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) decision and eased domestic travel restrictions for Dorje, allowing him to visit Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, except Rumtek monastery.
Former adviser on Tibetan affairs to MHA Amitabh Mathur had told The Indian Express last month that India “does not doubt 17th Karmapa commitment to Tibetan civilisation’s struggle and he is the future face of Tibetan Buddhism.”
Sources in MHA confirmed that India has formally requested Dorje to return to India, as desired by his followers.
The CCS, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has decided to allot land to Dorje in Delhi to construct his monastery. The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, who is also chairman of the Delhi Development Authority, is scouting for land and is expected to decide on one soon, an official said.
Dorje had escaped to India through Nepal in 2000, at the age of 14. The Sikkim government has written to the Centre on multiple occasions and requested that Dorje be allowed to make his claim as the 17th Karmapa. The Centre has not taken a decision yet, contending that the matter is pending before courts.