New Delhi: Standing firm in the face of China’s opposition to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India on Tuesday stressed that the Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit is in relation to the discharge of religious duties.
“The government, therefore, urges that no artificial controversy should be created around his present visit to Arunachal Pradesh," the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.
The Indian government statement came as the Dalai Lama made his way from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday by road due to inclement weather.
It also came as China warned that the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as part of Tibet, will cause “serious damage" to bilateral ties.
Listing out the Tibetan leader’s previous visits to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian external affairs ministry statement said, “The government has clearly stated on several occasions that HHDL (Dalai Lama) is a revered religious leader, who is deeply respected as such by the Indian people. No additional colour should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India."
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The Dalai Lama’s last visit to Arunachal Pradesh was in 2009. Prior to that, the Tibetan spiritual leader has visited the state five times—in 1983, 1996, 1997 and twice in 2003.
The Tibetan spiritual leader fled from Tibet to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He now lives in exile at Dharamshala in northern India.
India cleared the visit of the Tibetan spiritual leader to Arunachal Pradesh in November after New Delhi gave the rare go ahead to then US ambassador to India Richard Verma to visit Arunachal Pradesh.
Both came against the backdrop of China making it clear that its opposition to India securing a seat on the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that controls global nuclear commerce remained unchanged despite India’s attempts to engage China in a dialogue on the matter. Beijing had also then indicated that its position on the “listing issue pursuant to resolution 1267 (to designate Pakistan-based Maulana Masood Azhar a terrorist by the UN)" remains unchanged.
Meanwhile, minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday asked China not to interfere in its internal affairs adding that India respects Beijing’s one “One-China" policy and expects Beijing to reciprocate.
“There is no political angle behind His Holiness’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. It is completely religious. Arunachal Pradesh is an inseparable part of India and China should not object to his visit and interfere in India’s internal affairs," Rijiju said.
The minister said India had never interfered in China’s internal affairs and New Delhi expected reciprocity from China.
“We respect Beijing’s ‘One-China’ policy and we expect China to reciprocate," the minister said adding that the state is “not a disputed territory," is part of India and a “full-fledged state," of the country.
“There may be some differences of opinion between India and China over the boundary. But China has no locus standi over Arunachal Pradesh," he said.
China claims more than 90,000 sq. km (35,000 sq. miles) that India says is its territory—i.e. Arunachal Pradesh. According to China, Arunachal Pradesh is part of what it calls South Tibet. Disagreement between India and China over parts of their 3,500-km (2,175-mile) border led to a brief war in 1962. Since then, the two countries have moved to manage the dispute, but many rounds of talks have not yielded much progress.