Pacifist Between Wars

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

Less than a minute

In Vajpayee: The Years That Changed India (2020), Shakti Sinha wrote about the Dalai Lama’s endorsement of India’s nuclear tests in 1998:

“The Dalai Lama sent a personal letter to [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee, in effect supporting the decision to test by alluding to the point that the possession of nuclear weapons would deter any offensive actions and would therefore ensure peace. Vajpayee was very touched when he read the letter. Later, the Dalai Lama went on record saying that India should not be pressured into giving up nuclear weapons; it should have the same rights as developed countries. His basic point was that he thought ‘nuclear weapons are too dangerous. Therefore we should make every effort for the elimination of nuclear weapons.’ However, he disagreed with the assumption that is was all right for a few nations to possess nuclear weapons when the rest of the world did not; it was undemocratic.” (Chapter 4, ‘The Ground Moves’)

The Dalai Lama’s support of arms limitation is transactional rather than principled. His track record is unambiguous: whenever immediate political concerns demand it, he drops his opposition against armament and warfare just like any full-blooded realpolitiker would.

Originally posted as a series of Tweets on November 16, 2022 (with slight edits).

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.