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India Brushes Off China’s Objections to Dalai Lama’s Upcoming Visit

Overriding objections by China, India will allow the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to make a religious visit to the far northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, a border territory partially claimed by China.

On Friday, Beijing warned India against the weeklong visit scheduled for next month, saying it will cause severe damage to bilateral ties and to peace and stability in the China-India border area.

India dismissed China’s concerns with Foreign Ministry spokesman Gopal Bagley saying, “the government’s position is well known and has not changed.”

Official to meet Dalai Lama

India’s junior home minister, Kiran Rijiju, said there is no reason to stop the Dalai Lama, as he is coming as a religious leader.

Rijiju, who is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s point man on Tibetan relations, told the Press Trust of India that he would meet the Dalai Lama as a devotee during his visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which is home to a famed Buddhist monastery in Tawang. The Tibetan spiritual leader also visited it eight years ago.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometers in Arunachal Pradesh, calling it South Tibet.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday that Beijing strongly opposes the Dalai Lama visiting border areas and that it has urged India not to provide a platform to the “Dalai clique.” China calls the Tibetan spiritual leader a “dangerous separatist.”

India’s assertive stand

Analysts in New Delhi say the green light to the Dalai Lama’s visit and the federal minister’s plan to be present when he visits Tawang indicate a more assertive stand taken by the Modi government, whose relations with China have come under strain in the past year, partly because of Beijing’s increasingly close ties with Pakistan.

“It’s basically meant to take a tough line on China. They are being more bold on that (Dalai Lama) issue,” according to Manoj Joshi at New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation. “Maybe the government thinks they can extract some leverage from this,” he says.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee hosted the Dalai Lama in December at the presidential palace along with other Nobel laureates at a conference on children’s rights. It was the Dalai Lama’s first meeting with an Indian head of state in 60 years.

New Delhi also dismissed Chinese objections to that meeting, calling it a non-political event.

Indian leaders have seldom shared a public platform with the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959, although they have had private meetings with him.

Last month, a Taiwanese parliamentary delegation visited Delhi, angering Beijing, which regards Taiwan as an integral part of China.

Despite decades of talks, the two Asian neighbors, who fought a brief war in 1963, have failed to resolve a boundary dispute.