As Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama on Sunday embarked on a week-long spiritual visit to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, the territory which China claims, his top aide justifies the visit saying that "it is more nostalgic".
Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the government-in-exile based in this hill station, told IANS: "The visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh this time is rather more nostalgic."
"The Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the home to one of most sacred Buddhist monasteries, coincides with 50 years of the Tibetan people in exile," he said.
Rinpoche is critical of China's strong assertions regarding the spiritual leader's visit.
"The visit has nothing to do with politics. It is solely for spiritual teachings. This was not his first visit (to Arunachal Pradesh). We fail to understand why China is so critical (about his visit) this time. We are surprised and saddened over China's reactions.
"The Dalai Lama is free to travel anywhere in India. He visits different places only on the request of people. This time also his visit has been finalised on the request of his followers... the visit was long pending," Rinpoche, the second most powerful leader after the Dalai Lama in the government-in-exile, said.
The government-in-exile is not recognised by any country in the world.
This is the fifth visit of the Nobel Peace laureate to Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier, he visited the state in 1959, 1996, 1997 and 2003.
The Dalai Lama, 74, during his visit to Japan last week hit out at China for opposing his visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
"I was surprised at China's criticism. If my visit creates problem, I am very sad, that's all... all my visits are non-political in nature," the Dalai Lama told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.
"In 1962 during the India-China war, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) already occupied all these areas (Arunachal Pradesh) but they announced a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew, accepting the current international boundary," he said.
The Dalai Lama has also recollected his deep emotional attachment with Arunachal Pradesh, as it was the place where he entered India after his escape from Tibet in 1959.
The Dalai Lama reached Tawang Sunday to deliver spiritual discourses.
Tawang, a picturesque town located at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet, is home to one of most sacred Buddhist monasteries. The place is spiritually important for the Tibetans as the sixth Dalai Lama was born in the 17th century at the Urgelling Monastery, near Tawang.
The Dalai Lama is also expected to inaugurate a hospital at Tawang. He has contributed Rs.2 million for its construction.
The Dalai Lama will visit the adjoining towns of Bomdila and Dirang Nov 12, before leaving for state capital Itanagar Nov 14. The visit ends Nov 15.