"I am 82 but still a strong man," Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, told reporters after he arrived at Bomdila in West Kameng district, marking the beginning of his nine-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
"I am a messenger of Indian thoughts," said the spiritual leader, adding that he was happy to visit Arunachal Pradesh. "I thank the Indian government for taking care of me."
The Dalai Lama's visit to Bomdila has irked China. In an article titled 'New Delhi using Dalai as diplomatic tool harms Sino-Indian ties', Global Times — a Communist Party-run daily published by the official People's Daily — said that "amid Beijing-New Delhi conflicts, the Dalai Lama is now openly used by India as a diplomatic tool to win more leverage. New Delhi is dissatisfied with Beijing's stance over its membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its request to name Masood Azhar, head of Pakistani militant group, to a UN Security Council blacklist. Therefore, Delhi attempts to play the Tibet card against Beijing."
But the Dalai Lama responded by saying that "India has never used me against China."
"We don't want independence from China...Chinese government must give us meaningul self-rule or autonomy," he added.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has been standing up to China for a long time.
His current visit to Arunachal Pradesh comes eight years after his previous visit in 2009, which was exactly 50 years after he had passed through Bomdila on his way from Lhasa in Tibet to India.
In fact, he has visited Arunchal Pradesh six times since 1983.
His first trip was in 1983 (24 March - 6 May) when he visited Miao, Tenzingang, Bomdila, Tawang, Dirang and Itanagar.
During his second trip to Arunachal Pradesh in 1996 (7 - 16 December), he travelled to Miao, Tezu and Mirig.
He followed it up in 1997 (9 - 21 October) during which he travelled to Tenzin Gang, Bomdila, Dirang and Tawang.
In 2003, the spiritual leader paid two visits to the northeastern state — first between 29 April — 9 May (Bomdila from 1 - 3 May and Tawang from 3 - 9 May), and then from 11 - 17 December (Itanagar in the last three days).
The 2009 trip, his sixth, was between 8-15 November and he had commenced the visit from Tawang and was there for four days.
China has raised objection to the Dalai Lama's trip to Arunachal Pradesh saying it will cause "serious damage" to bilateral ties.
India on Tuesday had rejected China's objection, saying no "artificial controversy" should be created around the visit and asked Beijing not to interfere in its internal affairs.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 12:54 PM