DHARMSALA, India (AP) — The prime minister of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile urged his compatriots Saturday to strengthen efforts to make the return of the Dalai Lama to his native land a reality.
Lobsang Sangay also said Tibet has seen 60 years of destruction of its civilization, culture and identity by the Chinese since the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' spiritual leader, fled to India in 1959.
The Dalai Lama and Sangay spoke at a public event in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala marking the beginning of the 60th year of the spiritual leader's exile in India.
Sangay said the Dalai Lama "dreamt of himself in a room in the Potala Palace filled with light where he will be reunited with Tibetans inside Tibet." The Potala Palace in Lhasa was the residence of the Dalai Lama until he fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising.
"We Tibetan people with the support of people of India and abroad should strengthen our efforts to make his return to his Potala Palace a reality," Sangay said. "Let us reunite the Dalai Lama with Tibetans inside Tibet who have spent the last 60 years with a hope, with a dream to get a glimpse of the Dalai Lama in their lifetime."
"Thousands and thousands of Tibetans have been killed and have died for the cause of Tibet. Many of them have burned themselves alive," he said in a hard-hitting speech.
The Dalai Lama thanked India for giving shelter to him and said the Tibetans have turned their unfortunate circumstances into a path of enlightenment by reviving their spirit and influence wherever they are.
The Indian government was represented by junior Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma. Earlier this month, local media reported that India had told top officials to avoid events held by Tibet's exile government to celebrate the Dalai Lama's life in India, fearful of hurting relations with China.
Ram Madhav, a governing Bharatiya Janata Party leader, expressed hope in his speech that the Dalai Lama "would be able to find a solution to the Tibetan issue through peaceful and democratic means that will facilitate your honorable return to your homeland."
The Dalai Lama was subdued in his speech, but in the past he has said the issue of Tibet could be best resolved amicably through the middle way approach, by resuming dialogue with China demanding true autonomy while remaining under Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama said Saturday that he left Tibet in 1959 under difficult circumstances without knowing what would happen in the next 50 or 60 years.
"Today we are celebrating 60 years in exile where we could see what will happen to us in the future to a certain extent," he said without elaborating.
China says Tibet has historically been part of its territory since the mid-13th century, and has governed it since 1951. But many Tibetans say the region was effectively independent for most of its history.