In a fresh twist to the delayed return of Tibetan spiritual leader Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, speaking for the first time, contradicted India’s claims and said that he had applied for visa in October last year and was yet to hear from Indian authorities. New Delhi has maintained that they are ready to grant visa to Karmapa on his newly acquired passport of Commonwealth of Dominica, but the spiritual leader has not come forward to apply for the same.
Addressing the 36th Kagyu Monlam through webcast, Karmapa said, “As you all know, I have a new passport. Once I got the new one, my old document Identity Certificate (IC) became invalidated. I went to Indian Embassy in New York (In October 2018) to turn into them. I went there and told them I needed to turn my old travel document and further requested them to grant me visa on my new passport.”
The latest statement was made in a video message on January 22, the last day of the annual Kagyu Monlam, one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist festivals. The annual event is held at Bodhgaya and attended by hundreds of disciples of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
In his 35-minute recorded speech, using a translator, Karmapa says that he was unable to get visa from India and explains, “…the people in that office (Indian Embassy in New York) told me that they are not authorised to do so and they needed to ask their offices in Delhi about it. There was lot of back and forth which took a bit of time and in the end I could not get it done.”
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who is believed to be in Germany, further said, “I hope to return to India as quickly as I can. Up till this point, I am having conversation with the Indian government.” Narrating the sequence of events that unfolded last year, he says that he has not been able to come for Kagyu Monlam twice.
“I have not been able to come. This is quite noteworthy and I apologise to all of you. In general, during November last year, there was a great meeting planned in Dharamshala for which all the leaders of the entire lineage were to attend. I had great wish to attend. But in October, I thought that before going to Canada, I will quickly travel to India. I wanted to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama as I hadn’t seen him for long time. I also wanted to meet and talk with the officials of the Indian government.”
Reacting to Karmapa’s statement, official sources indicated that Karmapa was keen to obtain an Indian visa with multiple entry, but the kind of visa to be allotted is the prerogative of the government. The sources added that the South Block was upset with the Tibetan leader for not sharing information about him acquiring a foreign passport.
The issue was flagged by Indian agencies that have long suspected him to be a Chinese spy. In 2015, India was willing to engage with Dorje when the government reviewed the 2000 Cabinet Committee on Security decision and eased domestic travel restrictions for him, allowing him to visit Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, except Rumtek monastery.