Q: How do you make wise choices? Between two paths?
Of course, firstly, you have to weigh the benefits — which one is the better path. Then you have to see if realistically you can achieve your choice or not. I am always telling Tibetans — if we still remained inside Tibet, then we would have simply carried our old way of life. Now we lost our own country.
Here in that situation, Pandit Nehru was really of immense help. The first time I met him was in Peking in 1954. It was on Chinese National Day. Pandit Nehru was invited. I had a strange experience at that time. One day, Zhou Enlai gave a luncheon to the Indian prime minister. At that time, I was one of the deputy chairman of the National People’s Congress. So at lunch time, all the Chinese dignitaries — like those in my position — we stood in line. Then, Zhou Enlai and Nehru came. Zhou Enlai introduced all the Chinese officials, the leaders to Nehru. In my case, Zhou Enlai introduced Pandit Nehru to me and said, “This is the Dalai Lama.” At that very moment, Pandit Nehru became motionless. He remained completely silent and still, like this (The Dalai Lama goes motionless).
Zhou Enlai is very smart. He immediately moved on. He introduced the man next to me and said, “This is Panchen Lama.” At that time also, I felt that Pandit Nehru’s mind…and Sardar Patel’s protection (can help us). And that China may create problems for India. I think Pandit Nehru reflected on all this too because since then, traditionally, we have had close relations between India and Tibet.
In 1956, we discuss on several occasions our request about Tibet. At that time, amongst my own people, there were two groups. One group said that it was better to return and the other group said, No. This is the best opportunity and now we must remain in India. So I discuss this with Nehru. He listened very sympathetically and advised me that it was better to return to Tibet. And then one day, he carried a copy of the 17-point agreement. He made some marks at the various points, and told me– this, this, and this point you can struggle with China. So he was very kind.
In 1959, when we approach the Indian border, we had doubts about whether the government of India would allow us in or not. We sent two groups of officials — one to the Bhutan border and other to the Indian border. The group that went to the Indian border sent a message that the Indian side was ready to receive me. I felt very happy. I stayed a few days in Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh because at that time, my physical condition was very weak. Dysentery had made me very weak. I stayed around ten days and took the long train to Mussoorie.
Around April 24, Nehru came. Although he had some official function there, mainly he came to see me. At his advice, we returned to Tibet. But then the Chinese — month by month — they became much more arrogant. So finally we realized that there is no other possibility except escape. When we reached Southern tibet, the Chinese government announced that the Tibetan government was abolished. So we hurriedly set up a temporary Tibetan government in some historical bordertown. I casually mentioned this to Nehru. He lost his temper. He said, we cannot accept your government (imitates angry person and laughs). So he was so close and sympathetic to us. Sometimes he lose his temper. So it was like that.
After many years, (late diplomat) Jagat Mehta came specially to see me in Dharamsala. He wanted me to know about 1959, when the government of India received information that Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa and was coming to India. So, there was a cabinet meeting. Krishna Menon said we should not give asylum to Dalai Lama. Nehru said that we must accept him. That was the record. This shows that Nehru knew that in the long run, Tibet was very important to India. He considered us close, as a friendship.