April 23, 2000

NEW DELHI, April 23 (AFP) - Indian Home Minister L.K Advani said he would hold talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, before installing the Karmapa Lama at the Kagyu sect's headquarters in the Rumtek monastery, it was reported Sunday.

"We have to take into account many things before taking any decision on the early installation of the 17th Karmapa to Rumtek," Advani told the United News of India agency.

"Anyway, the Dalai Lama with whom we often hold talks with in matters relating to the young monk (Ugyen Trinley Dorji) is to be consulted," he added.

There is an internal squabble over who is the rightful heir to the throne of one of Tibetan Buddhism's major schools as two teenage boys claim to be the 17th Karmapa Lama, spiritual head of the Kagyu sect.

The favoured claimant is Ugyen Trinley Dorji, the 14-year-old lama who escaped in dramatic fashion from Tibet in January and is recognised by both the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

The rival claimant is Thaye Dorji who currently lives in a monastery in France and is recognised by some high lamas of the Kagyu lineage.

Followers of the French-based lama are clearly concerned that his claim to the Karmapa's throne has been undermined by the arrival of the escaped Ugyen Trinley Dorji in the northern hill town of Dharamsala--headquarters of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government.

His arrival generated worldwide publicity and allowed the Dalai Lama to reaffirm his recognition of the boy as the true reincarnation of the 17th Karmapa Lama.

The French-based lama's supporters have threatened to challenge any attempt to have the Dalai Lama's choice formally enthroned at the Kagyu sect's headquarters at the Rumtek monastery in the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim.

The boy lama's escape from Tibet has been a major embarrassment for China, which insists that it allows religious freedom in Tibet.

His arrival in India has also placed New Delhi in a difficult position, as it seeks to balance its traditional support for Tibetan exiles against a desire to improve relations with Beijing.

Five senior monks from the Rumtek monastry met Advani late Saturday and submitted a memorandum to him urging India to grant "permanent political asylum and status" to Urgyen Thinley Dorjee.

Unofficial reports have hinted that the government will grant the teenage lama permanent residency.

Meanwhile, two other groups claiming to have "genuine" Karmapas also met Advani and demanded their own candidates be installed at the head of the Rumtek monastry.

India is home to some 100,000 Tibetans, who followed the Dalai Lama after his 1959 escape from Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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