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India claims its policy on Tibet 'hasn't changed' amid reports of govt asking leaders to avoid Tibetan events

The external affairs ministry reiterated on Friday that India's stand on Tibet remains "clear and consistent." This comes after reports that the Centre had advised senior ministers and bureaucrats to stay away from 'Thank You India' events organised by Tibetan leaders, media reports said.

"India's position on the Dalai Lama is clear and consistent. He is a revered religious leader and is deeply respected by the people of India. There is no change in that position. His Holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India," a Ministry of External Affairs official was quoted as saying by NDTV

The ministry's comments came after The Indian Express reported on an official note dated 22 February, advising "senior leaders" and "government functionaries" of the Centre and states to stay away from events organised by Tibetan leaders, citing "very sensitive times" in bilateral relations on India and China. The note was sent by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, who put out a directive to that effect two days later.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The note reportedly referred to the year-long 'Thank You India' campaign which is slated to begin with an interfaith meeting, which will be attended by the Dalai Lama at Rajghat on 31 March followed by a public event at Thyagraj stadium on 1 April. The president of the Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay had inaugurated the campaign marking the Tibetan people's "gratitude to India" on 18 January.

India and China have been trying to reset their ties after last year's 73-day standoff between the two sides at Doka La. Efforts to normalise strained ties have been on, and last week Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visited Beijing and held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and discussed a range of issues amidst continuing tensions in bilateral ties.

Besides the tensions along the 3,488 kilometres long Line of Actual Control (LAC), the two countries have disputes over a range of issues, including India's objection to the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China blocking efforts at the UN to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist as well as India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The Tibet issue is another rough patch in the India-China ties. China maintains a tough stance on Tibet and has been known to work its displeasure through diplomatic channels, and force countries and businesses alike to tow its line.

Last week, German carmaker Daimler had to issue an emphatic apology to China after its subsidiary Mercedes Benz quoted the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in an Instagram post, Xinhua reported.

Earlier this year, China shut down the Chinese websites of Marriott International for a week, after the firm listed Tibet and others as separate countries in a Chinese-language questionnaire to customers, said an IANS report.

However, India has had a consistently supportive policy towards the exiled leaders of the state, and Sangay too had appealed to New Delhi to make Tibet's struggle for freedom and autonomy a "core" issue of its policy.

Walking a tightrope on its pledged support to Tibetans, while seeking a peaceful relationship with China, India's position on Tibet has been to recognise it as an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China, as it "continues to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the vexed boundary issue" with China.

Sixty years ago, some 80,000 Tibetans, along with their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, left Lhasa after a failed uprising against Communist rule over Tibet and fled to India. The Tibetan exile administration, called the CTA, is based in Dharamshala, where the spiritual leader also lives. Around 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Mar 02, 2018 15:03 PM

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