Dalai Lama in India: All you need to know about Tibetan leader's visit, and China's response

The Dalai Lama is on a 12-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh amid objections from China, which doesn't officially recognise the northeast state as Indian territory and considers it a disputed region.

During his visit, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader recalled his 1959 flight to India from Tibet. He said he had no option but to escape Tibet in view of Chinese military action. He was speaking at a function organised by an Indian newspaper, The Assam Tribune, in Guwahati. State governor and top elected officials were among an audience of nearly 1,500 people at the function.

Dalai Lama. AFP

File image of Dalai Lama. AFP

The Dalai Lama last visited Arunachal Pradesh in 2009. China protested that trip as well, but there was no major impact on relations with India.

On Tuesday, at the conclusion of his trip to Assam, he will leave for Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang district. He is scheduled to consecrate a temple and give blessings to his followers during his week-long stay in the state.

"Whenever I come to the northeast of India, it feels like a reunion with people here," the Dalai Lama said on Saturday. "When I revisit Tawang, I am reminded of the freedom that I had experienced for the first time (in 1959). That was the beginning of a new chapter in my life," he said.

According to Hindustan Times, the Dalai Lama had an emotional reunion on Sunday with one of the five Assam Rifles guards who escorted him to India during his escape from Tibet in March 1959. The Dalai Lama embraced Naren Chandra Das, a retired jawan, at the Namami Brahmaputra River festival organised by the Assam government in Guwahati.

"On 10 March, 1959, there were huge demonstrations in Lhasa (the Tibetan region's capital), he recalled. "Chinese military action also increased. I had no option but to escape. On 17 March, I fled."

"I sent some of my officers to Indian authorities at the border," he said. "They readily allowed us in, received us warmly, and today I can tell you that I am the longest guest of the Indian government."

Last month, China warned of "severe damage" to relations with India and increased regional instability if the Dalai Lama proceeds with his trip to the state. To this, Dalai Lama told The Times of India that it's normal and there is no problem in China objecting to his visit. The Dalai Lama said it was not accurate to associate an act of terrorism with any particular religion. He went on to say that he is very uncomfortable when someone says a Muslim terrorist or a Buddhist terrorist. A genuine Muslim never follows the path of violence and there could be There may be exceptions among Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews. These people cannot represent the entire community and he said he is against such generalisations, he said.

According to The Telegraph, the Dalai Lama also suggested the introduction of secular ethics in school curriculum in Assam. Among other things, he said that he considered himself a son of India. "A few years ago, some Chinese reporters asked me why I identified myself as India's son. I told them that my mind and each part of my brain is filled with the knowledge and thought of Nalanda. Besides, my body survived on Indian dal, chapati and rice. That is why both physically and spiritually, I am a son of India," he said.

He said wherever he went, he wanted to be a messenger of ancient Indian knowledge. He said the knowledge was relevant to "find a path when it (world) was in crisis or in violence".

The Nobel Laureate also sounded worried at the continuing increase in the gap between the poor and the rich. "Even today, there is a huge gap between the rich and poor in many countries, including India. We have to uplift the poorer section of society," he said.

According to the article, Indian officials have argued that the Dalai Lama is not doing anything that is different from his usual activities and his proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh and the Tawang monastery is a consequence of his followers' long-standing demands. However, the officials have said that if this really agitates China, then it also reveals a pressure point that can come handy in interactions at the political and diplomatic level.

NDTV reported that the Dalai Lama also released an Assamese version of his first autobiography, My Land and My People, in Guwahati on Monday.

On Tuesday, he is expected to address the students and authorities of Dibrugarh University. According to NDTV, the banned ULFA(I) faction led by Paresh Barua, which maintains close connections with the Chinese intelligence, has "appealed" to the Dalai Lama to not say anything that could hurt the Chinese while he was visiting Assam.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Beijing has expressed its concerns to New Delhi on numerous occasions and urged India to avoid offering a place for the Dalai Lama to carry out "anti-China separatist activities", China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said last month.

China on Sunday said the Dalai Lama fled to India from Tibet in 1959 after a "failed armed rebellion", rejecting his 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 on Sunday.

"His remarks which serve his anti-China separatist purpose have no trace of facts at all," the ministry had said in a written response to a query about his comments. About his stay in India, the ministry said, "The Chinese government is resolutely opposed to any country's support and facilitation for the 14th Dalai group's anti-China separatist activities."

China claims the partly ethnically Tibetan Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory, and the frontier between the two Asian giants remains tense, more than 50 years after they fought a brief but bloody border war.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) in Arunachal Pradesh, referred to informally by some Chinese as "Southern Tibet".

India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometres (15,000 square miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau. According to a Hindustan Times report, relations between India and China seem to be going towards a diplomatic chill over the Arunachal Pradesh visit, Chinese experts have said, with some of them saying Beijing should use all means including military to show its displeasure.

While the incursion by the People’s Liberation Army across the Line of Actual Control that marks the disputed China-India border cannot be ruled out, it is also quite possible that Beijing suspends bilateral mechanisms as a response — at least temporarily.

There is also a possibility that China could try to stir India's strategic unease by enhancing cooperation with India's neighbours in South Asia especially Pakistan, sign new deals and pump in more financial aid, the report said.

More than a dozen rounds of talks have failed to make substantial progress on the dispute, although there have been relatively few confrontations in recent years.

With inputs from agencies

Published Date: Apr 03, 2017 06:35 pm | Updated Date: Apr 03, 2017 06:35 pm

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