January 19, 2019

Cautious India to skip Tibetan events marking 60 years of exile

03 March 2018, 05:10 | Silvia Roy

Pic courtesy IANS

India's position on Dalai Lama unchanged he's free to carry out religious activities MEA

China considers the Dalai Lama to be a separatist and expresses displeasure when government leaders - Indian or foreign - meet the Tibetan leader, who has been living in exile in India for the past six decades. While the Dalai Lama found shelter in India, New Delhi has often been careful to avoid showing him official support.

New Delhi is of the view that the time chosen by the Tibetan Government in Exile to hold the "Thank You India" event would be "very sensitive" for India's relations with China and hence purportedly asked the senior leaders and officials of Government of India as well as the state governments not to participate in it.

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. The Centre has come to this decision after a letter sent by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha dated February 22 just before flying off to China.

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India has long had a wary relationship with China, seeing it as a strategic rival and a major trading partner.

Responding to a newspaper report that cited a Union government advisory asking central and state government functionaries and leaders to stay away from the Dalai Lama-led "Thank You India" campaign, the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) on Friday said that India's position on the Tibetan leader is "unchanged". "He is a revered religious leader and is deeply respected by the people of India", MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. There is no change in that position.

New Delhi and Beijing are expecting the strains in the ties to be eased out in 2018, which is likely to see a series of engagements between the two neighbours.

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Gokhale recently visited Beijing and met his counterpart in the Chinese Government, Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou. In last two meetings between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping during the BRICS summit in Xiamen and the SCO summit both leaders agreed "not let differences become disputes".

Beijing also strongly criticized New Delhi past year for allowing the Dalai Lama to visit the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Events commemorating this landmark have already begun in Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama resides and which is officially considered his headquarters.

The government-in-exile is based in the north Indian town of Dharmsala, which is also home to the Dalai Lama.

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