With the Dalai Lama scheduled to visit Arunachal Pradesh early next year, India on Thursday said the Tibetan spiritual leader is a guest and is free to travel across the country. The statement came following reports that his visit to Arunachal Pradesh, scheduled for March, may raise China’s hackles.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to Arunachal Pradesh at the invitation of Chief Minister Pema Khandu and the visit is learnt to have been cleared by the Centre. The spiritual leader is likely to visit Tawang, the seat of a Buddhist monastery. China claims that the region is part of southern Tibet. Last week, it had reacted strongly to American envoy Richard Verma’s tour to Tawang, saying that he visited a “disputed region”.
Asked about the Dalai Lama’s upcoming visit, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said he is a “guest of India” and is free to travel across the country. “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… 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,” Swarup said.
In the wake of the US envoy’s visit, China had warned the US that any interference in the China-India boundary dispute will make it “more complicated” and “disturb” the hard-won peace at the border.