Bilateral ties will be seriously damaged if India allows the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh in the coming weeks, China warned on Friday while reiterating its contention that the Tibetan spiritual leader is a “separatist”.
The warning from China’s foreign ministry came soon after the country’s former chief negotiator on the border issue, Dai Bingguo, said there should be some give and take to settle the dragging boundary dispute.
The foreign ministry said it is “gravely concerned” about reports that the Dalai Lama will visit the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the near future.
The Dalai Lama’s visit will cause “serious damage” to China-India ties, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing. “China is strongly opposed to Dalai Lama visiting disputed areas,” he said.
“China’s position on eastern section of China-India border dispute is consistent and clear. The Dalai-clique has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and its record on the border question is not that good,” Geng said.
Meanwhile, India on Friday dismissed China’s warning over the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying that New Delhi’s position on the matter is well known.
“The government’s position is well known and has not changed,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said in response to a query.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory, calling it south Tibet. The state comprises the eastern sector of the nearly 3,500-km disputed border between India and China. The town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is an important seat of Tibetan Buddhism and is located 400 km from Lhasa, the capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
Geng avoided a direct comment on an interview by Dai Bingguo, China’s Special Representative for border talks with India till 2013, in which Dai had said: “If the Indian side takes care of China’s concerns on the eastern section of the border, the Chinese side will respond accordingly and address India’s concerns elsewhere.”
Dai didn’t mention specific sections of the border where China could address India’s “concerns”.
“The disputed territory in the eastern sector of the China-India boundary including Tawang (in Arunachal Pradesh) is inalienable from China’s Tibet in terms of cultural background and administrative jurisdiction,” Dai told China-India Dialogue magazine that is part of the official China International Publishing Group.
Dai was the Special Representative for 15 rounds of talks with four Indian counterparts – Brajesh Mishra, JN Dixit, MK Narayanan and Shivshankar Menon.
Without directly commenting on the interview, Geng said it is in “the fundamental interest of the two countries” to reach an “early solution” to the border issue. This is also an “important consensus” reached by the two sides, he added.
“At present the two sides have reached a roadmap to find a solution based on political parameters and guiding principles. They have also reached the important consensus that they are committed to an equitable, reasonable solution acceptable to the two sides,” Geng said.
“China would like to work with India to work relentlessly on negotiation process and find a solution that is equitable, reasonable to all parties,” he added.
Geng was more emphatic about China’s displeasure on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunchal Pradesh. Indicating that India is deliberately allowing the Dalai Lama to visit the region despite knowing China’s expected reaction, Geng said India is aware of the sensitivity of the matter.
“India is fully aware of the seriousness of the Dalai issue and the sensitivity of China-India border question,” he said.
“Under such a background if India invites Dalai to visit the mentioned territory it will cause serious damage to peace and stability of the border region and China-India relations.”
Geng said China had conveyed its displeasure and concerns to India about the impending visit through formal channels.
“We have expressed concerns to the Indian side, urged India to stick to its political commitments and abide by important consensus the two sides have reached on the boundary question, refrain from actions that might complicate the issue, not provide a platform to the Dalai-clique and protect the sound and stable development of China-India relations,” he said.
China had strongly protested against the Dalai Lama’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in December, saying it opposes any form of contact between the Tibetan leader and officials of other countries.