A day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in Thailand, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Friday said Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is "free to go anywhere in the country" and asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.
"The Dalai Lama is a respected religious and spiritual figure. He is free to travel to any part of the country," Rao told reporters here when asked about India's position on the Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh next month.
"Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India," Rao said. Beijing has raised objections to the Tibetan leader's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India's northeastern state over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
Rao, however, reiterated India's position that the Tibetan community is not expected to undertake any political activities in the country.
"We are aware of the fact that the Dalai Lama had expressed an interest to visit Arunachal Pradesh," Rao replied when asked whether the exiled Tibetan leader had conveyed to the Indian government about his plan to visit Arunachal Pradesh.
In a sign of their deepening trust deficit, China raked up its claim over Arunachal Pradesh last week and also objected to Manmohan Singh's visit to the state Oct 3.
India reacted sharply, asking China to desist from carrying out infrastructure projects in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and saying that it was a part of Jammu and Kashmir.
Confirming the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen in the Thai resort city of Hua Hin, Rao said the bilateral relationship "will be in focus" when the two leaders meet.
Rao set a positive tone for the much-watched meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of India-ASEAN summit in Thailand, saying: "This is a relationship that has developed in many areas."
"It's also a complex relationship," she said while mentioning that there are some outstanding issues between the two countries that need to be resolved through dialogue.
"This is an opportunity to address all issues. India and China are partners in multilateral fora on many issues," Rao stressed.
The meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen will be followed by bilateral talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Bangalore Oct 27 on the sidelines of a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of India, China and Russia.