Lodi Gyari

Spe­cial en­voy to Dalai Lama who fought for Ti­bet

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Deaths And Obituaries -

LODI Gyari, who has died aged 69, was a spe­cial en­voy to the Dalai Lama and spent years ne­go­ti­at­ing with Chi­nese of­fi­cials over the sta­tus of Ti­bet.

China in­vaded the Hi­malayan king­dom in 1951, and the Dalai Lama fled to In­dia in 1959. In talks that be­gan in 2002, Gyari pushed the Dalai Lama’s pro­posal that Ti­bet be given true, rather than merely nom­i­nal, au­ton­omy, while re­main­ing un­der Chi­nese rule. That pro­posal, re­ferred to as the “Mid­dle Way”, was re­jected in 2008, the Chi­nese ar­gu­ing that it would presage a bid for full se­ces­sion.

Lodi Gyalt­sen Gyari was born in 1949 in Nyarong, a Ti­betan district later seized by China. He was recog­nised as a rin­poche, the rein­car­na­tion of a Bud­dhist master, and schooled in the tra­di­tions of Ti­betan Bud­dhism.

He fled to In­dia when he was 10, dur­ing the 1959 Ti­betan re­bel­lion which saw the Dalai Lama and his govern­ment re­lo­cate to Dharam­sala. In 1970, he co-founded the Ti­betan Youth Congress to fight for his home­land’s in­de­pen­dence; the Chi­nese have long said that the Congress is a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Gyari worked for a time as part of a CIA plan to train Ti­betan gueril­las. He then went into jour­nal­ism. He edited a Ti­betan-lan­guage news­pa­per be­fore mov­ing to what later be­came the Ti­betan Re­view.

Jovial and elo­quent, he went on to work in Dharam­sala as the kalon, or min­is­ter, of the ex­iled govern­ment’s Depart­ment of In­for­ma­tion and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions — ef­fec­tively for­eign min­is­ter. He con­tin­ued to knock on China’s door, re­mark­ing in 1989: “Our strat­egy is to keep chas­ing them around so they fi­nally sit down and talk.”

His tac­tics bore fruit, though pa­tience was needed: in 2002, Bei­jing fi­nally reached out to the Dalai Lama, and gru­elling ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gan.

In 2005 he re­marked: “The Chi­nese took a long time to ac­cept me as the Ti­betan in­ter­locu­tor. Their ob­jec­tion against me has been that I am an ac­tive ‘split­tist’ and that I am ac­tively in­volved in in­ter­na­tion­al­is­ing the is­sue of Ti­bet... They wanted us to stop our in­ter­na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Chi­nese mis­trust may have been height­ened by Gyari’s work with the US Congress on the 2002 Ti­betan Pol­icy Act, un­der which the US govern­ment pledged sup­port to the Ti­betans to pro­tect their “dis­tinct” cul­ture. The act also cre­ated a State Depart­ment spe­cial co­or­di­na­tor on Ti­bet: the po­si­tion has been va­cant un­der Pres­i­dent Trump.

Gyari’s last post was ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign for Ti­bet (ICT).

Lodi Gyari, who died on Oc­to­ber 29, is sur­vived by his wife, Dawa Chokyi, and by their six chil­dren.

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