Deccan Herald, 28 October 2016
The government on Thursday said that Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is free to visit any place in India, including Arunachal Pradesh.
“The Dalai Lama is a revered spiritual figure and an honoured guest of India. He is absolutely free to travel to any part of the country,” official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi.
India’s move came even as the recent tour to the state by the US envoy to India Richard Verma riled China.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of leading a secessionist movement against China’s rule over Tibet.
“It is a fact that he (the Dalai Lama) has a sizeable following among the Buddhists in Arunachal Pradesh who like to seek his blessings. He has visited the state in the past as well and we see nothing unusual if he visits again,” Swarup said. The Buddhist monk’s visit to Tawang near the de facto India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh in 2009 had sparked off strong protest from Beijing.
Arunachal Pradesh has been at the centre of a long-pending boundary dispute between the two neighbours. China does not recognise the state as a part of India and claims over 83,500 sqkm of territory in Arunachal Pradesh as its own.
China routinely protests visits by the President and the prime minister of India to Arunachal Pradesh.
It also tried to stop international agencies from providing financial support to development projects in the state.
Beijing has been particularly sensitive about the Dalai Lama’s tours to Tawang and other places in Arunachal Pradesh, as it anticipates that such visits could have political repercussions in Tibet.