New Delhi: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s visit to India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, that China claims in its entirety, is threatening to snowball into a major diplomatic row between the Asian giants with Beijing threatening to take “necessary" counter “measures."
At a foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that India had inflicted “serious damage" on China-India relations by allowing the Tibetan spiritual leader — who Beijing considers a separatist — to visit Arunachal Pradesh.
“India, in disregard to China’s concerns, obstinately arranged the Dalai Lama’s visit to the disputed part of the eastern part of the China-India border, causing serious damage to China’s interests and China-India relations," Hua was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency. “China firmly opposes this move and will lodge representations with the Indian side," she said.
The 81-year-old Tibetan Nobel laureate reached Bodila in West Kameng district on Tuesday, starting a nine-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh. China is sensitive to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh which happens to be the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama, born in 1683, and is considered a centre of Tibetan Buddhism.
According to the Indian foreign ministry, the present Dalai Lama has visited the state six times previously, the last being in 2009.
On Tuesday, minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju said while India has never interfered in Beijing’s affairs, and has respected the “One China" policy, China should not interfere in India’s internal affairs or object to the Dalai Lama’s visit.
Separately, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said no “artificial controversy" should be created about the visit.
However, China seemed to be in no mood to relent.
“China’s stand on the eastern part of the borders is consistent and clear. India is keenly aware of the role played by the 14th Dalai Lama. Arranging his visit to those sensitive and disputed areas not only runs counter to the Indian side’s commitment to the issues related to Tibet but also escalate disputes over the border area," Hua said in Beijing.
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“It goes against the momentum of the sound growth of bilateral relations and will not benefit India in anyway," she said.
“China will firmly take necessary measures to defend its territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests. We demand the Indian side immediately stop its actions using the Dalai Lama to undermine China’s interests and not hype up sensitive issues between the two countries, not artificially damage the foundation of the talks between the two countries on the border issues and bilateral legislations and take concrete actions to safeguard the China-India relations," Hua added.
The row over the Dalai Lama’s visit is expected to add to an already fraught India-China relationship weighed down by what India sees as China’s insensitivity to its core concerns. China has opposed India’s attempts to secure 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 also blocked repeated attempts by India to get Pakistan-based terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar declared a terrorist by the UN.
Harsh Pant, professor of International Relations, Department of Defence Studies, at King’s College, London, said Chinese statements on Wednesday “in many ways is classic Chinese diplomatic language that they tend to use on Tibet. I still don’t see what it is they can do (in counter measures against India) given that the military balance of power is already in their favour," he said.
“There could be an escalation at the tactical level," Pant said referring to a possible increase in border incursions. “But this is something that we have lived with," he said.
Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi described the Chinese statements on “countermeasures" as psychological warfare.