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Hope India returns Tawang, says Chinese media as Dalai Lama visits Arunachal

A Global Times article said this wasn’t the first time India was “using” the Tibetan leader to express displeasure over bilateral squabbles.

world Updated: Apr 04, 2017 22:15 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India-China relations,Dalai Lama,Arunachal Pradesh
The state media article said this wasn’t the first time India was “using” Dalai Lama to express displeasure over bilateral squabbles.(HT Photo)

China upped the ante as Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama began a visit to Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, with an expert telling the state media that Beijing hopes Tawang in the northeastern Indian state will be returned to it.

The unnamed expert from the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who was quoted by the nationalistic Global Times tabloid, also trotted out Beijing’s standard line that the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state claimed by China would hurt bilateral ties.

The Chinese government should take steps against India’s moves to explain Beijing’s position to the world community, the expert said. The expert also indicated India wasn’t honouring its commitment not to allow its territory to be used for anti-China, separatist activities.

The state media article said this wasn’t the first time India was “using” the Tibetan leader to express displeasure over bilateral squabbles – indicating that New Delhi plays the so-called Tibet card when ties are turbulent.

“The Dalai's visit to the controversial area, especially Tawang, which China hopes will be returned, will affect relations between China and India,” the unnamed expert was quoted as saying by the tabloid affiliated to the Communist party mouthpiece, People’s Daily.

Uncharacteristically by state media standards, the expert from CASS, a premier government think tank, remained anonymous.

China, which claims Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet, has voiced strong concerns about the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state. It claims about 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang, one of the most important seats of Tibetan Buddhism.

China also occupies around 38,000 sq km in Jammu and Kashmir that India claims as its territory.

The Global Times noted in its report that the Dalai Lama had said that Tawang is “also the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, which gives the place religious meaning to Tibetans”. The report quoted minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju as saying that the Dalai Lama's visit was “purely religious,” and that there was no political angle behind it.

The Indian government issued a statement on Tuesday morning that said the Dalai Lama’s visit was for “religious and spiritual activities” and “no additional colour should ascribed to it”.

The anonymous expert dismissed these assertions and was quoted as saying that this wasn’t the first time India had “used the Dalai Lama to express its displeasure to China, especially when bilateral talks fail to include their demands or to pander to domestic anti-China issues”.

This was a nod to issues that have plagued bilateral ties since last year: China blocking the listing of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist by the UN, stalling India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and going ahead with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor despite New Delhi’s sensitivity over a few projects under it being built in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“India should deliver its political commitments to China on Tibet-related issues, including opposition to separatists,” the expert told the tabloid.

The expert also noted “China would take steps against any government which invites the Dalai Lama to express its position to the international community”.

First Published: Apr 04, 2017 21:26 IST