China on Wednesday demanded that India immediately stop the Dalai Lama’s ongoing visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying by “obstinately” arranging the visit to the “disputed region”, New Delhi had risked its ties with Beijing.
The 81-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader reached Arunachal, which China claims to be a part of south Tibet, on Tuesday for a week-long visit, with India telling its neighbour that the tour was its internal matter.
“We demand the Indian side immediately stop wrong actions, not hype up sensitive issues and take concrete steps to safeguard growth of India-China relations,” ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
Dismissing India’s statement that the visit was religious in nature, the ministry said no one believed that the Dalai Lama was visiting a “disputed region” for religious reasons alone.
China would lodge a protest with India for allowing the visit to go ahead, overlooking China’s concern, the spokesperson said, indicating it could heighten the tension on the festering border dispute.
Beijing sees the profile of this visit as higher as this time the Dalai Lama is accompanied by union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from the Tawang district of Arunachal.
The Dalai Lama had visited Tawang eight years ago, leaving China fuming.
To India’s assertion the visit was an internal matter, Hua said China didn’t interfere in the internal affairs of any country but the Tibetan leader’s visit wasn’t one because it was linked to a “disputed region”.
“He is not just a religious figure therefore, his visit to this place will not be purely religious purpose. So using these empty words to define the arrangement is not reasonable,” Hua said.
The reaction of the ministry, which reconvened after two days of national holidays, is along expected lines.
Earlier in the day, the Chinese state media lashed out at India, saying China would not allow New Delhi a “free ride” on its economic growth while it endangered Beijing’s core interests.
New Delhi was “playing” the Dalai Lama and his anti-China activities as a diplomatic tool, said an article in the influential state-run tabloid the Global Times, warning of retaliatory measures. “The Dalai Lama has long been active in anti-China separatist activities under the guise of religion. New Delhi inviting the Dalai Lama to sensitive region gravely damages the China-India relationship,” it said.
The Dalai Lama got a rousing reception when he reached Bomdila on Tuesday evening. He will be in Tawang on April 8.
Tawang is an important Buddhist centre with a 400-year-old hilltop monastery but also holds a special place for the Tibetan leader who spent a few days in the Himalayan village after escaping the Chinese army in 1959.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet and calls Dharamsala-based Dalai Lama a separatist who wants to carve out an independent Tibet within the Chinese mainland.