NEW DELHI: India on Friday reasserted its rights to host ‘revered’ Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Arunachal Pradesh, even as China warned that it would cause “serious damage” to bilateral ties as it claims that the area is a disputed border region.
A Ministry of External Affairs official, on condition of anonymity, insisted that there has been no change in the government’s position that “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a respected and revered spiritual leader” and as an “honoured guest” was free to travel to any part of India.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Tawang, Itanagar and eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh from April 4 to 13 this year.
He has been in India since his escape in 1959 much to the chagrin of China, which continues to term him as “wolf in monk’s clothing”.
According to Buddhist traditions, the soul of a senior lama is reincarnated following his death. Even as the Dalai Lama has hinted at doing away with the title after his death, the officially atheist Communist leaders of China insist on appointing his successor in the light of the right inherited from China’s emperors.
India, so far, has been hesitant in using the Tibetan spiritual leader to send a strong message to China.
However, Beijing has launched a continuous tirade against India’s interests — energy security through entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and crippling Masood Azhar’s terror network by getting him into the UN’s proscribed terrorist list.
The Dalai Lama will be meeting Indian government officials, including Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, during his visit to Tawang, reflecting its official backing. Rijiju himself hails from Arunachal Pradesh.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: “China is gravely concerned over information that India has granted permission to the Dalai to visit Arunachal Pradesh. China is strongly opposed to the Dalai visiting disputed areas.”
Tawang — the town on the India–China border — has been the bone of contention between the two countries. Beijing had earlier objected to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the town in 2009.
Tawang, which Beijing claims is a part of southern China, has links to the history between the two countries as it was through its passes that the Dalai Lama crossed over to India.