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Indian Officials to Meet Dalai Lama Despite Chinese Warning

Sputnik News

22:24 03.03.2017(updated 23:32 03.03.2017)

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will meet with Indian federal government officials at a disputed border area claimed by China but currently under New Delhi control. China has warned India that the visit could cause "severe damage" to already-strained relations between the two countries.

Next month the renowned monk is scheduled to visit Arunachal Pradesh, an area China claims to be 'South Tibet,' to view the presence of Indian and foreign leaders in the region, while legitimizing India's claim to the territory.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama to be a separatist who will stoke tensions as China and India have ongoing disagreements over security issues, and New Delhi remains uncomfortable with Beijing's blossoming relationship with Pakistan.

At one time India was hesitant to engage with the Dalai Lama, as to not irk China, but the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now looking to share a platform with the world-famous Tibetan religious figure and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

According to junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju,"It's a behavioral change you are seeing. India is more assertive."

Rijiju is an Arunachal native, and an advisor to the Prime Minister on Tibetan issues. He will meet with the Dalai Lama while the latter visits the Tawang Buddhist monastery.

"He is going there as a religious leader, there is no reason to stop him," Rijiju reasoned, "His devotees are demanding he should come, what harm can he do? He is a lama."

On Friday China's Foreign Ministry announced the Tibetan religious leader's visit would seriously damage Beijing's relationship with New Dehli, with ministry spokesman Geng Shuang telling reporters, "The invitation to the Dalai Lama by the Indian side to the contested area between China and India will inflict severe damage on the China-India relationship and peace and stability in the China-India border area."

India has developed an increasingly-bold foreign policy of late, evidenced by a recent bilateral meeting early in Modi's administration in which Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj asked if China had a 'One India' policy, recognizing New Delhi's claims to Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir territories contested by Islamabad, in the same way they expect other nations to adhere to the 'One China' policy.

Tibetan government head Lobsang Sangay said, "These meetings were happening before. Now it is public…I notice a tangible shift. With all the Chinese investments in all the neighboring countries, that has generated debate within India."

The Dalai Lama has not visited Arunachal Pradesh since 2009. He first fled Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in 1959 and was welcomed in India after a failed resistance against the Chinese seizure of his country.


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