China on Friday objected to a scheduled visit to Arunachal Pradesh by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, saying it would damage ties with India and amount to New Delhi breaching a political commitment on the boundary issue.
Beijing’s sharp reaction came after it became known the Dalai Lama would visit Arunachal Pradesh – claimed by China as south Tibet – in early 2017 at the invitation of state Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
“We are seriously concerned about the relevant information,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Friday when he was asked about the planned visit.
China’s strong reactions on the issue of Arunachal Pradesh – twice in less than a week - are the latest indication that bilateral ties continue to be rocky.
For China, the Dalai Lama’s visit is doubly troublesome - first, it claims Arunachal Pradesh, and second, Beijing considers the spiritual leader a secessionist engaged in anti-China activities. China usually refers to the Dalai Lama a dangerous “splittist” plotting Tibetan independence, a charge he denies, saying he is only seeking autonomy for the region.
He last visited Arunachal Pradesh in 2009 amid strong objections by China.
“China’s position on the eastern section of the China-India border is consistent and clear. The Dalai clique is engaged in anti-China separatist activities and has very disgraceful behaviour on issues relating to the China-India boundary question,” Lu said, lashing out at the Dharamsala-based Tibetan leader.
“The Indian side is well aware of the severity of the Dalai Lama issue as well as the sensitivity of the China-India boundary question.”
Lu’s reaction was unequivocal about China’s stand on the issue: “Under such circumstances, India’s invitation to the Dalai Lama for activity in the disputed areas between China and India will only damage peace, stability of the border areas as well as the bilateral relationship between China and India.
“We require the Indian side to honour the political commitment on Tibet-related issues and abide by the bilateral consensus on boundary question, refrain from taking any action that may complicate the issue.”
He said India should not “provide any platform for anti-China separatist activities by the 14th Dalai Lama. By doing so can we maintain sound and steady growth of the bilateral relations.”
Last week, Beijing reacted strongly to US envoy Richard Verma’s October 22 tour of the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh, saying the ambassador visited a “disputed region”.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup described the Dalai Lama as an “honoured guest of India” and said he is free to travel across the country. “It is a fact that he has a sizeable following among Buddhists in Arunachal Pradesh, who like to seek his blessings. He has visited the state in the past as well and we see nothing unusual if he visits again,” he said.
Besides the border dispute, India and China have had testy exchanges over the issues of New Delhi’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Beijing blocking a bid to get Pakistan-based Jaish chief Masood Azhar sanctioned by the UN Security Council.