Ignoring China’s protest, Dalai Lama begins Arunachal tour with change of itinerary
The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, particularly the Tawang region, is his second in eight years. His last visit in November 2009 had also evoked strong reactions from China.india Updated: Apr 08, 2017 19:28 IST
Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Tuesday began a week-long visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India’s easternmost state that is at the heart of a decades-old dispute with China.
But, while China has been predictable in its warnings against the Dalai Lama’s visit, the weather was not – both in Aruanachal and Assam.
But neither could prevent the 14th Dalai Lama from travelling to the frontier state on Tuesday, albeit with a last-minute change of plan, as a guest of the BJP-ruled state government.
The 81-year-old spiritual leader was scheduled to fly to Tawang, a Buddhist pilgrimage at 10,000 feet, along with chief minister Pema Khandu. But the state-run helicopter could not take off from the airport in Guwahati due to torrential rain.
“The weather forced us to take the road. Our tour of Arunachal Pradesh is on course but with a change in schedule,” Tenzin Takhla, the private secretary to the Dalai Lama, told HT.
The Dalai Lama’s itinerary, a government spokesperson said, has been reversed.
He will now be reaching Tawang, about 180km from Bomdila, on April 8 for a three-day stay.
The spiritual leader was earlier scheduled to depart from Tawang on April 9 and visit other places, some of which, including state capital Itanagar are likely to be struck off the itinerary.
The rain, however, followed the Dalai Lama when he arrived at Bomdila’s Lower Gompa after an almost nine-hour drive. Almost everyone who matters in Arunachal Pradesh – from ministers and local MLAs to the chief secretary and director general of police – had queued up in the rain to greet him.
“This is a great day for us, and we are fortunate His Holiness accepted our invitation,” Khandu said. He had gone to Dharamshala last year to invite the Dalai Lama.
One of his aides said the Dalai Lama’s visit was purely spiritual without any geo-political message for anyone.
But with the Red Dragon breathing fire from across the India-Tibet border not far away, the Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit did try to drive home New Delhi’s message.
“This is our internal affair. China should not interfere just as we do not interfere in their internal matters,” Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home affairs who hails from West Kameng district, had said in Itanagar on Sunday.
The external affairs ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that “no additional colour should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India”.
The Indian government, therefore, urges that no “artificial controversy” should be created around his current visit to Arunachal Pradesh, it added.
The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, particularly the Tawang region, is his second in eight years.
His last visit was in 2009, exactly 50 years after he reached India after fleeing from Lhasa,Tibet. His visit then had also evoked strong reactions from China.
China claims claims about 90,000 square kilometres in Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing often refers to as “Southern Tibet”.
Several rounds of talks have failed to make substantial progress on the dispute, although there have been relatively few confrontations in recent years.
Last month, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that Beijing has expressed its concerns to New Delhi on numerous occasions and urged India to avoid offering a place for the Dalai Lama to carry out anti-China separatist activities.
(with agency inputs)