The Dalai Lama is the Tibetans' god-king and also the embodiment of India's leverage on the core issue with China — Tibet. But with the longest-living Dalai Lama having turned 80 this month, the future of both Tibet, and the leverage that India has shied away from exercising, looks more uncertain than ever. Beijing is waiting for the exiled Tibetan leader to pass away to install a puppet as his successor, in the way it has captured the Panchen Lama institution.

The Dalai Lama's 80th birthday came just weeks after the 20th anniversary of China's abduction of the Tibetan-appointed Panchen Lama, one of the world's youngest and longest-serving political prisoners. And it will be followed by the 50th anniversary of the founding of what China deceptively calls the "Tibet Autonomous Region."

This, in reality, is a gerrymandered and directly ruled Tibet, half of whose traditional areas have been taken away and incorporated in Chinese provinces. Tibet was almost the size of Western Europe before it came under Chinese rule. China's conquest of the sprawling, resource-rich Tibet enlarged its landmass by more than 35 percent, turned it into India's neighbor, armed it with control over Asia's major river systems, and gave it access to a treasure trove of mineral resources.