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'No suppression of Tibetan protests'

India makes it clear that it would not ban peaceful protests during the Olympic torch relay in Delhi, but assures proper security, reports Nilova Roy.
Hindustan Times | By Nilova Roy Chaudhury, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 12, 2008 09:23 AM IST

Amid China's anxiety over the fate of the Olympic torch during its relay in India next week, India on Friday made it clear that it will not ban the protests by Tibetan refugees but gave assurance that proper security would be ensured for the event.

Responding to a query from China, India said that being a democratic country, it believes in free expression and would not suppress it even during the relay of the torch in New Delhi on April 17.

New Delhi believes that anybody, including the Tibetans, have the right to express themselves peacefully and democratically while respecting the laws of the land.

On Dalai Lama particularly, New Delhi notes that he is a "respected guest" and points to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent remark, describing him as the "greatest living Gandhian".

At the same time, New Delhi conveyed to Beijing that ensuring security for the Olympic torch during its relay in New Delhi is its responsibility and it will carry it out, sources said.

The Indian response came when China asked whether India had banned protests by Tibetans after a media report said such a measure had been taken by the West Bengal government.

The Ministry of External Affairs explained to the Chinese side that law and order is a state subject and every state decides individually on measures in this regard. But at the central level, there is no policy to suppress expression of views by anybody.

A team of Chinese elite security personnel will escort the Olympic flame during its relay here along with a posse of Indian policemen, sources said.

A four-member team of Chinese security officials is already in New Delhi and discussing the details with regard to protection of the torch besides the Embassy and other Chinese assets.

Doing a balancing act of maintaining ties with China while preserving the "unique" relationship with the Tibetans, the government insists that its stand vis-a-vis both has remained unchanged since 1992.

The stand will not change, no matter how many demonstrations the Tibetans hold, sources said.

New Delhi emphasises that it has not bent backwards while dealing with Beijing, arguing that the perception in this regard in the media was misplaced.

India feels that continued demonstrations by Tibetans across the globe are embarrassing China and Beijing will have to hold talks and is likely to do so to address the resentment in Tibet.

On the controversial summoning of Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao by China to protest against storming of its Embassy in New Delhi on March 22, New Delhi claims that she was not summoned past midnight as reported.

She was called at 9 pm but she was at a dinner and went to the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11.30 pm, which is not abnormal, the sources in New Delhi said.

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