|Nilova Roy Chaudhury||April 2017|
New Delhi. When The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s highest spiritual leader, chose to visit Arunachal Pradesh state of Northeast India, it was expected to be a landmark event for tens of thousands of his followers in the region and beyond.
While his followers were ecstatic to see their “living God,” the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal has sparked heightened diplomatic tensions between India and China, with Beijing threatening “serious” consequences and New Delhi asserting that the visit was an internal affair of India.
Nonetheless, India went out of the way to say that the visit was religious with no political overtones against China.
But as expected, a belligerent China, which is supporting Pakistan-based ISI-sponsored terrorists against India, stepped up its rhetoric against New Delhi and severely criticised the Dalai Lama also.
Kiren Rijiju, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs, who is an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, said no political motive should be attributed to Dalai Lama’s trip. “India has always been non-interfering in the neighbours’ internal affairs,” he said. “We expect the same from our neighbours.”
“When Dalai Lamaji is in Arunachal Pradesh, he will be confined only to religious matters. He is not there to make any political statement and he is not there with any political motive,” Rijiju said April 4, when the week-long visit started.
Notably China, which has territorial disputes with nearly all its neighbours and is now trying to annex even the South China Sea, has also claimed Arunachal Pradesh.
A day after the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s highest spiritual leader, left Arunachal Pradesh, China on April 12 warned India that the visit would have a “negative impact” on resolving the border dispute. Beijing also accused New Delhi of violating its commitment on the Tibet issue.
Spewing venom, the Chinese foreign ministry said that Beijing would take “further action” to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and criticised what it called “provocative” statements of the Tibetan spiritual leader and Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who said the state shared its border with Tibet, and not with China.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said their “provocative” statements “exceeded the scope of religious activities” as stated by India.
Lu said despite China’s objection, India insisted on arranging the Dalai Lama’s visit “in the disputed areas of the eastern section of the China-India boundary.”
Rijiju, who travelled to Arunachal Pradesh April 5 to meet the Dalai Lama, said India had never questioned China’s sovereignty and “has respectfully adhered to the one-China policy”.
“So we expect that China also should not interfere in our internal matters,” he said.
“No artificial controversy should be created around his present visit,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesman Gopal Baglay said. “The Dalai Lama is a revered religious leader who is deeply respected by the Indian people” and has visited Arunachal Pradesh on six earlier occasions.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in fact, reacted more sharply than usual even before the visit began, saying in a statement that “The 14th Dalai Lama is an anti-China separatist who has long lived in exile following a failed armed rebellion by the reactionary group of high-ranking feudal serf owners in Tibet in March 1959.”
Significantly, India has also been angry over China’s persistent opposition to India’s efforts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and refusal to get Masood Azhar, head of the ISI-sponsored Jaish-e-Mohammed proscribed as an international terrorist at the UN.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said China was strictly opposed to the visit. Geng said India knew the sensitivity of the border issue between both countries and allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh would damage its ties with China.
Foreign Secretary Jaishankar addressed the issue clearly when he said, although in a different context, that the “CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) violates Indian sovereignty because it runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)”
“Therefore since they (China) are a country which has been very sensitive to sovereignty concerns, we would like to see what proposal anybody has in this regard. The issue for us is a sovereignty issue,” Jaishankar categorically stated.