AMRITSAR, November 27 - TIBETAN spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Tuesday that his successor will be chosen outside of Tibet if he dies in exile.
'If my death comes when we are still in a refugee status then logically my reincarnation will come outside Tibet,' he said in an interview restricted to three journalists.
After nearly five decades in exile, the 72-year-old said he was looking at 'different methods or ways' on the succession.
These included something 'like the pope's election', seniority or someone who can succeed in the traditional way, but may still be outside Tibet.
'There are cases that a person before death is already chosen,' the Dalai Lama added but said he did not wish to elaborate on that.
'China of course will appoint someone else,' he said in response to a question on Beijing's accusation last week that he was disrespecting Buddhist traditions after he first suggested he may name his successor before he died.
Speaking on the sidelines of an inter-faith meeting in this Sikh holy city in northern India, the Dalai Lama said 'a serious succession process has not yet started', adding, 'according to my regular medical checkup I am good for another few decades'.
The Tibetan leader had announced in Japan this week that he was open to naming his successor before he died, but on Tuesday he went further.
It may appear to go against centuries of tradition - in which high-ranking monks choose the reincarnation - but also heads off plans by China's ruling Communist Party to select the new Dalai Lama.
China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951 and has violently crushed protests there, recently announced that so-called Tibetan living Buddhas needed permission from the government, officially atheist, to be reincarnated.
Beijing views the current Dalai Lama as a dangerous figure who wants independence for his Himalayan homeland.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and has set up a government in exile in the Indian hill station of Dharamsala.
But the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner maintains he only wants greater autonomy for Tibet and for Chinese repression there to end.