NEW DELHI: India on Thursday asserted itself in a move that can further rile up China over the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and said Tibetan spiritual leader – an honoured guest of India – was free to travel any part of the country, including Tawang.
Tawang – the town on Indo-China border- has been the bone of contention between the two countries and Beijing has objected to Dalai Lama visiting the town earlier in 2009. The Tibetan Spiritual Leader, who had taken shelter in India in 1959 after fleeing China, has been extended an official invitation by the Arunachal Pradesh government to visit the Tawang, Itanagar and eastern districts of the state next year.
“You are all aware that HH Dalai Lama is revered spiritual figure and an honoured guest of India. He is absolutely free to travel to any part of the country,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Thursday. “It is a fact that he 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.”
Tawang that China claim to be part of the southern China has links to the history between the two countries as it was through its passes Dalai Lama had crossed over to India.
The announcement about Dalai Lama’s visit comes close on the heels of the top US diplomat Ambassador Richard Verma visiting Tawang to attend the Tawang Festival. The visit also had official sanction as the Envoy was accompanied by the Chief Ministers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Later on Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju also reached there for inauguration of the festival. Rijiju himself hails from the state.
China has criticized the visit of the US Diplomat and asked Washington to refrain from meddling in the “disputed” region. New Delhi responded by saying that the visit was not “unusual” as Verma visited a province of India.