China Wary As Dalai Lama Set to Visit Tawang Today

K J M Varma/Beijing
China Wary As Dalai Lama Set to Visit Tawang Today
File-AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia

A wary China kept a close watch as the Dalai Lama is set to begin over week-long visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh today to attend religious engagements, evoking high decibel protests from Beijing which highlighted the disputed status of the area.

As the 81-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader's politically significant visit came specially at a time when India-China ties were a low ebb due to differences over a number of issues came, China proactively countered the Dalai Lama's account of how he had to flee from Tibet due to military actions.

India-China ties are currently bogged down over New Delhi's objections over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through PoK, Beijing blocking India's membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a UN ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar.

China last night said the Dalai Lama fled to India from Tibet in 1959 after a "failed armed rebellion", rejecting the Tibetan spiritual leader's remarks that he had no other option but to escape due to increased Chinese military action.

"As it is known to all, the 14th Dalai Lama is an anti- China separatist who have long lived in exile following a failed armed rebellion by the reactionary group of high-ranking feudal serf-owners in Tibet in March 1959," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said reacting to his comments.

"His remarks which serve his anti-China separatist purpose have no trace of facts at all," the Ministry told PTI in a written response to a query about his comments.

About his stay in India, it said, "the Chinese government is resolutely opposed to any country's support and facilitation for the 14th Dalai group's anti-China separatist activities".

During his visit to Assam on April 1, the Tibetan Buddhist leader recalled that "On March 10, 1959, there were huge demonstrations in Lhasa", the Tibetan region's capital.

"Chinese military action also increased. I had no option but to escape. On March 17, I fled," he said.

He said the warm-hearted welcome he received on his arrival at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh 58 years ago was a "moment of freedom" for him.

Chinese troops entered Tibet in October 1950 overcoming the resistance from the Tibetan army and later the Chinese control over the area was formalised in 1951.

The Dalai Lama fled from Tibet in 1959 and lived in India in exile since then.

Ahead of his visit to Tawang, China has sought to highlight the disputed status of the Tawang, located about 25 km close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

According to reports, the Tibetan spiritual leader is expected to stay in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as southern Tibet, till April 12 to attend religious engagements.

On April 1, China had asked India to exercise caution and restraint in its reported plan to connect Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as part of Tibet, with railway network saying that New Delhi should refrain from unilateral actions that might complicate the boundary issue.

"China's position on eastern section of the China-India boundary is consistent and clear. At present, the two sides are working to resolve the territorial dispute through negotiation and consultation," the Ministry said, reacting to reports that India is exploring feasibility to connect Sino- India border district Tawang with the railway network.

"The two sides have agreed that pending final settlement, both sides will work together to properly manage the dispute and preserve peace and stability of the border areas," it said.

Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had warned India that the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as part of Tibet, will cause "serious damage" to bilateral ties and New Delhi has to make a "choice".

India's former ambassador to China Ashok Kantha said he is puzzled by the noise China is making over the Dalai Lama and Tawang.

"Pending a boundary settlement, the clear understanding since 1993 is that we will work on the basis of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The fact remains that Arunachal is on our side of the LAC," Kantha, who retired as Indian envoy to China last year, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post recently.

"We do not raise questions about Chinese movements in Aksai Chin (which China took control in 1962 war) even though we consider it to be part of our territory. So I do not understand when they complain about things we do on our side of the LAC. That is a departure from a fundamental agreement," he said.

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