Buddhist leader meets Naren Chandra Das 58 years after he escorted him in India after his escape from Chinese authorities
The Dalai Lama who has lived in exile ever since fleeing Tibet in 1959, was visibly emotional as he embraced Naren Chandra Das Photograph: Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images
The first time they met, Indian paramilitary guard Naren Chandra Das was ordered not to talk to the bespectacled young soldier he was escorting near the Chinese border in a top-secret mission.
Nearly 60 years later, Das was reunited with the Dalai Lama in an emotional ceremony that recalled the Buddhist leader’s escape from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese authorities.
This time the Dalai Lama had the first word. “Looking at your face, I now realise I must be very old too,” he told Das, 79, at a ceremony on Sunday in the north-eastern city of Guwahati.
The ceremony is likely to fuel anger in Beijing over the Dalai Lama’s tour of north-east India, including Arunachal Pradesh, a border state with areas that China regards as its own territory.
It has warned India that the tour by the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing calls an “anti-China separatist”, will do serious damage to ties between the two Asian powers.
In Guwahati on Sunday the Dalai Lama – who denies seeking Tibetan independence – remembered the “warm-hearted” welcome he received in India after a 13-day trek through the Himalayas to escape the Chinese army.
“The days prior to my arrival in India were filled with tension and the only concern was safety, but I experienced freedom when I was received warm-heartedly by the people and officials and a new chapter began in my life,” he said.
The Dalai Lama fled his Lhasa palace in March 1959 when he was 23 after years of tension between Tibetans and the Chinese government erupted into popular rebellion.
Disguised as a Chinese soldier, he and members of his cabinet slipped out of the palace and trekked by night through mountains and across the 500-metre (1,640ft) Brahmaputra river to reach the Indian border.
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