By Tenzin Dharpo
Gyari Lodi Gyaltsen. file photo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 29: For a seasoned diplomat, Gyari Lodi Gylatsen, in an interview, just before his departure for Beijing for the fifth round of talks with the People's Republic of China as the Dalai Lama's chief negotiator and Special Envoy in Washington, he said, “For someone like me, engaged in the negotiations, I see it more as a spiritual practice than an exercise in diplomacy.”
Preeminent figure of the Tibetan movement and former envoy of Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lodi Gyaltsen, known to most as Gyari Rinpoche breathed his last in the early hours of Monday in San Francisco, California in the United States. He was 69.
Lodi Gyari looks on as His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets with President Clinton and Vice President Gore, photo- ICT
Gyari Rinpoche was reported to be treated for liver cancer for the last few weeks in San Francisco where he passed away around 6:15 am local time on Monday with his family around him. He is survived by his wife Dawa Chokyi, their six children and grand children.
As condolences pour in for the late Gyari Rinpoche, the overwhelming consensus show him to be a life-long servant of the Tibetan cause and a dedicated emissary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who pioneered roles and structures in the Tibetan diaspora’s civil society community and that of its diplomatic circles.
The President of Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay said, “Today, we say goodbye to a true Tibetan patriot. Lodi Gyari Rinpoche dedicated his entire life serving Tibet and the Tibetan people. He was a trailblazer and leaves behind a lasting legacy of public service. We are eternally grateful for his distinguished service.”
Senior Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi in her statement said, “May it bring comfort to Lodi’s loved ones that so many share in their sorrow and in their appreciation of the legacy he has left us,” adding that Members of (US) Congress on both sides of the aisle sought counsel from him on Tibetan issues and beyond and that they benefitted from ‘Lodi’s insight and wisdom’. Consequently, in 2012, the US Senate passed a resolution (S. Res. 557) saying that it “honors the service of Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari as Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and commends the achievements of Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari”.
He was born on the cusp of the Chinese intrusion into Tibet in 1949 into an influential family in Nyarong, Eastern Tibet and recognized as a reincarnation of Khenchen Jampal Dewé Nyima from Lumorap Monastery.
His service to the Tibetan cause spans long, in various capacities in the civil society arms; initially as the editor of Tibetan language newspaper, Tibetan Freedom and then Tibetan Review, the first-ever English language publication by a Tibetan.
Later, he co-founded the Tibetan Youth Congress in 1970 which is the largest non-governmental organisation with the most grass-roots reach in the Tibetan exile community today. He also served as President of the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington DC from 1991 to 1999. “During that time, the organization grew from fewer than 1,000 members to more than 75,000 and from an organization with little funding to one with a multi-million dollar budget,” ICT said.
In official capacities, he was elected as the youngest speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile aged just 30 and also appointed in the cabinet of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamshala.
His most visible role perhaps came as the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington DC in 1990 where he pushed for “the institutionalization of US support for Tibet” that resulted in concrete US government funding to the tune of 185 million USD from 1991 to 2011 and legislature such as the the Tibetan Policy Act (2002), that details policy and material support to the Tibetan people and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
He was also appointed as the chief negotiator for the dialogue process with the government of the People’s Republic of China on the behalf of the Dalai Lama. He led a delegation that conducted nine rounds of high-level talks in China and elsewhere between 2002 and 2010. In May 2012, he resigned from the post citing more repression in occupied Tibet and lack of response from Beijing to the Tibetan side.
On his recipe for success in advocating the Tibetan cause on the international platform, he had said that in addition to a passionate belief in the cause of the Tibetan people and an unwavering commitment to serve under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as well as a dedicated team with him, he had never been afraid to seek help and guidance from others.
The offices of the Central Tibetan Administration remained shut in mourning and a prayer service was held in his honour here today.