While the controversy (and the MEA's kowtowing to China) continues to rage, it is interesting to look at the transcript of a talk between the Dalai Lama and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister on India.
The encounter took place on April 16, 1961.
KL Mehta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs took the notes.
A couple of weeks later (May 2), in a debate in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister was asked:
(a) whether the Dalai Lama visited New Delhi on the 15th April, this year for having some discussions with him; andDuring the course of the debate, Nehru stated:
(b) if so, what were the subjects discussed?
It is the normal practice that when asylum is granted, it is done so subject to any condition that the country may think it necessary. The condition is that the soil of their country should not be used for any purposes opposed to them, which might get the country into trouble. It is a normal practice.This is still valid today, though there are ways and ways to put this in practice.
Here is the transcript of the talks as published in the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (Volume 68, Series II). The subtitles are mine.
When Nehru meets the Dalai Lama
The Prime Minister received His Holiness the Dalai Lama at P.M.'s House on Sunday April 16 and the talks lasted for over 90 minutes.
The Secretary General [RK Nehru ] was present.
Having thanked [the] P.M. for inviting him to Delhi, the Dalai Lama said that he had come to the conclusion that the only hope of preservation of Tibetan culture and religion now lies in those Tibetans especially children who have come to India.
The object of his visit to Delhi, therefore, was to discuss with the Prime Minister the various important problems dealing with the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees with special reference to the drawing up a suitable programme for the education of young people, both boys and girls below 16 years in age.
The Dalai Lama added that as for the rest, broadly speaking, only two schemes have so far been finalised which cater for the rehabilitation of refugees as agriculturists.
One of these was being implemented in Mysore and the other in NEFA.
The Prime Minister said that he wanted the Tibetans to grow up as an integrated community with due safeguards for the maintenance of their tradition, culture and religion.
He added that in order to make a proper assessment of the problem of rehabilitation, it was necessary to consider it in two or more parts.
He was himself specially interested in the education of the young people, and this, therefore, must assume topmost priority.
The Prime Minister wanted to make it clear that the Government of India had the responsibility to provide education to every Tibetan child of school-going age. The programme of education did not include just primary education, but also secondary education, and for those who would benefit from it, University education.
He had no doubt that the future of the Tibetans in India depended on the quality of education given to them, and it would be entirely artificial to lay down an upper limit in regard to the number of young people to the educated.
The Prime Minister emphasised that the education should be good, with due regard to the traditional background of Tibetans, and at the same time modem.
It was important to realise that whereas separate schools will be provided for primary education, and also at the secondary stage, the syllabus would have to be designed in such a way as to enable the students to join Indian polytechnics, and those likely to benefit from it also Indian Universities.
We could not obviously provide separate polytechnics and separate Universities for Tibetan children only.
Indeed having completed their secondary stage, it would not even be right for the Tibetan children to remain cut off from the rest of India.
The Prime Minister added that arrangements to provide religious instruction to Tibetan boys even at the University stage could be made separately, if the Dalai Lama so wished.
It must be understood, however, that the educational programme for Tibetans should be drawn up to ensure development of the Tibetan children along the lines of their genius, and also to ensure that the actual education given was fully modem in the sense that it equipped the boys and girls to join Indian Universities and Polytechnics in due course.
The Dalai Lama speaks
The Dalai Lama said that he was in full agreement with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister. He added that there were 3,000 Tibetan refugee children below the age of 16 in India at the moment. Arrangements have so far been made to provide education to only some 500 amongst them. He added that the help of the State Governments concerned such as Mysore, UP and Punjab would be necessary in running the schools, but at the same time it was essential that there should be a common approach in running all the Tibetan schools irrespective of where they happened to be situated.
After some discussion and after taking note of the fact that the Nursery School [started by Tsering Dolma, the Dalai Lama’s sister] at Dharamsala is now running on the whole satisfactorily, and that the UK ‘Save the Children Fund’ Project, recently discussed in Delhi by Lady Alexandra Metcalfe [daughter of Lord Curzon, former Governor-General of India] is to be started shortly, the Prime Minister felt that the entire question of drawing up of a programme of education for Tibetan children including the opening of schools, the drawing of syllabus, the production of text books and other such details, should be made the responsibility of a Committee to be set up in New Delhi.
The membership of the Committee would consist of a representative each from the Ministries of External Affairs and Education, and representative of the Dalai Lama.
To these, representatives of the State Governments concerned, viz. Mysore, UP, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, NEFA and J&K would be invited as may be necessary from time to time.
This Committee will make policy, have a wide discretion, and take necessary steps to ensure that the decisions of the Government of India in such matters as the opening of schools, the training of teachers are being carried out according to the approved programme.
The Committee will have a Special Officer on a whole-time basis as its Secretary. This officer will go round looking after the schools, liaising with the Dalai Lama, and the State Governments concerned, and generally to assist the Committee in seeing that the decisions are being carried out.
The Dalai Lama expressed himself wholly willing to give his fullest co-operation to the Committee and to nominate his representative on it.
The Prime Minister directed me [KL Mehta] to call on the Education Minister to inform him with the list of discussion that had taken place and also to seek his advice in regard to the constitution of the proposed Committee.
The Prime Minister emphasised that this policy Committee will consider the problem as a whole. The Committee will also consider that what to do with Tibetan refugees in the age group of 16-20 to which the Dalai Lama made a special reference. It might for example be possible to train them as technicians while others may be found jobs in factories and elsewhere.
To create a trust
In this connection, a reference was made to the Dalai Lama's offer to make available a sum of Rs 20 lakhs for being spent on the education of Tibetan refugees during the next 4 years.
The Prime Minister asked the Dalai Lama to consider whether he should not create a trust fund for the education of Tibetan refugees and generally towards the rehabilitation of these people. This would ensure that the funds are properly invested, and incidentally, this would also mean that the profits would be free from income-tax.
The Dalai Lama promised to consider this advice and added that as soon as this 4-year period was over, he hoped to earmark the profits of a pipe making factory in Bihar, which he has already started in Bihar, in co-operation with Indian businessmen and on the advice of an expert from Chicago.
[A question was asked in the Rajya Sabha on May 1, 1961: “The Government understands that the Dalai Lama has invested some money in a Cast Iron Spun Pipe factory but have no knowledge of the extent of the investment.”The Dalai Lama expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Prime Minister for his views on the education of Tibetan refugees and expressed himself in whole-hearted agreement with the PM's views.
The Prime Minister gave an oral answer: “It is quite possible that unscrupulous people will try to take advantage of any position like that. But I have no particular knowledge of any particular set of unscrupulous persons doing that. The Government have given him general advice suggesting that he should invest his savings or whatever he has in reliable undertakings. That is all the Government has done. But, as has been said, the Dalai Lama has started a cast iron pipe concern for producing cast iron pipes somewhere in the Hazaribagh district in Bihar and he has invested some money in it.]
Settlement of the refugees
The Prime Minister then touched upon the question of settlement of refugees, who would not be covered by the education programme.
He said that we should go ahead with the settlement of 3,000 refugees in Mysore, and when this has been completed take up with the Mysore Government the question of settling another 2,000 if not more refugees in the forest areas nearby.
The Prime Minister gave his approval to the suggestion that a few more schemes on the lines of the Bhalukpung Scheme [A forest settlement for 500 Tibetan refugees about 40 miles from Tezpur] should be drawn up and implemented in other parts of NEFA. Similarly, we should re-double our efforts in settling refugees in Ladakh away from the border.
A reference was made to a recent suggestion from the Sikkim Durbar that they would rehabilitate 1,000 to 1,500 as agriculturists and tea-growers in Western Sikkim.
The Prime Minister enquired whether the promised scheme had been received from Sikkim.
The Prime Minister approved the suggestion that efforts should be made with the Government of Bhutan to settle refugees already in Bhutan and necessary financial and administrative help given to the Government of Bhutan.
[KL Mehta intervened] Rukmini Devi [Arundale, Rajya Sabha MP] told me some time ago that the Government of Madras would like to help in the task of rehabilitating Tibetan refugees. Enquiries may be made from that Government whether they are in a position to make land available for the settlement of Tibetan refugees.
Look after ourselves
Finally the Dalai Lama made a reference to the old and the infirm who do not depend on anyone and who should be looked after.
The Prime Minister felt that statistics of such people should be obtained and steps taken urgently to provide a home for them. This should be progressed further in consultation with the Dalai Lama.
The Prime Minister concluded by saying that it would greatly help in the understanding and solution of the question of rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees if the entire number, viz. 28,000 to 30,000 now in India are divided in various categories to determine how many amongst them would be absorbed in schools, in handicraft centres, as agriculturists, as workers on our road programme (and for how long) etc.
The lamas amongst the 28,000 to 30,000 refugees number 5,000.
The Dalai Lama said that of them 1,700 are already being looked after by Government. I mentioned that the required information under various head was available and that this would be further checked up and brought up- to-date in consultation with the Dalai Lama.
Separately the Prime Minister told me [KL Mehta] that he was dissatisfied with the progress achieved in implementing the programme of education for Tibetan children. He added that he attached the utmost importance to this question and wanted it to be known that the education to be given must be of good quality.
A letter to KN Katju, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
On April 24, Nehru wrote to KN Katju: “There was one matter I wanted to talk to you about, but forgot to do so."
The Dalai Lama was here for a number of days discussing with us the question of rehabilitating the Tibetan refugees in India. There is no chance, as far as one can see, of their being able to return, to Tibet. I am particularly interested in the boys and girls receiving good education. Probably in the future these Tibetans who are now in India will be the only real Tibetans left.
We are making special arrangements for the education of those boys and girls. So far as the Lamas are concerned, they are being settled in two or three places near monasteries and the like.
The Dalai Lama has been anxious to have agricultural colonies of Tibetans. With the help of the Mysore Government, we have got a good place on the uplands near Coorg, about 3,000 feet high, for such a colony of 3,000 persons. Over a thousand have moved there already; others will go as soon as arrangements have been made. Possibly we might be able to increase this number to 5,000 in Mysore. I think this is likely to be a good colony.
But this does not exhaust the Tibetan agriculturists, and something more has to be done for them in the shape of colonies. The Dalai Lama particularly mentioned to me the possibility of some of them going to Madhya Pradesh. I told him that I would enquire
I want to know from you if there is any possibility of this.
It has to be remembered, however that they cannot be settled anywhere and everywhere. They cannot stand the great heat of our plains. They must, therefore, go to a place at a fair altitude where the heat is not very great. Mysore has suited them more or less because it is 3,000 feet high. Also it is no good sending very small numbers of them anywhere. The minimum number for some kind of a community life in a colony would be about 250 families, making a total of approximately 1,000 persons.
I should like to know if you think this is at all feasible anywhere in Madhya Pradesh where these two conditions can be satisfied. So far as the expenditure on such a project is concerned, that will be set entirely by the Central Government.