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India 'distressed' over situation in Tibet, says MEA

Indian Govt seeks to walk the tightrope between appeasing China and expressing greater sympathy with the agitating Tibetans, reports Nilova Roy Choudhury. Tibet burns | see pics
Hindustan Times | By Nilova Roy Choudhury, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 16, 2008 03:28 AM IST

With anti-China protests mounting among India’s Tibetan community in exile, the Indian government sought to walk the tightrope between appeasing China and expressing greater sympathy with the agitating Tibetans.

In a statement on Saturday the external affairs ministry said India was “distressed” by the violence.

“We are distressed by reports of the unsettled situation and violence in Lhasa, and by the deaths of innocent people,” MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said in response to queries. “We hope that all those involved will work to improve the situation and remove the causes of such trouble in Tibet, which is an autonomous region of China, through dialogue and non-violent means.”

Though reiterating its position that Tibet is an “autonomous region of China,” the statement’s reference to the “unsettled situation” and “deaths of innocent people” is unlikely to thrill Beijing. China has accused the Dalai Lama, to whom India has given asylum, of instigating the violence in Lhasa. There was no formal comment from China on the Indian statement.

“We are watching the situation (in Tibet),” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters earlier on Saturday, adding, “We will respond in a day or two.”

However, with China having issued an ultimatum to the protesters to stop protests by Monday and Tibetans showing no signs of calming down, the Indian government has been compelled to respond.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of External Affairs had been less sympathetic to the Tibetan protests, forcibly stopping people who sought to cross the border and enter Tibet on March 11, the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India in 1959.

“Any person whether an Indian national or a foreigner is required to possess valid travel documents to cross the international border. Without possessing such travel documents, it is illegal to attempt to cross the international border.”

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