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China likely to take up Dalai Lama with Menon

December 22, 2007

Seema Guha
Daily News & Analysis
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NEW DELHI: Foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon will travel to Beijing
later this week for the third round of India-China strategic dialogue.
He will also use

the opportunity to put the finishing touches to Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh’s official visit to Beijing scheduled mid-January 2008.

Though India’s position on Tibet is well known, it is likely to be
brought up by the Chinese during Menon’s meeting with deputy foreign
minister Wu Dawei.

Ever since the US Congress decided to honour the Dalai Lama with the
congressional gold medal, the highest civilian award conferred by US
lawmakers, the

Chinese have been wary.

The Dalai Lama’s well-publicised visit to Capitol Hill was followed by
his trip to Canada and a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela

Germany’s paid for this because when Merkel visited China, she was given
a cold reception. In sharp contrast, French president Nicholas Sarkozy was

greeted with business deals worth 20b euros by the Chinese. France had
not entertained Tibet’s spiritual leader.

The pragmatic Chinese wanted to make the Germans realise exactly what
Merkel’s meeting with the Dalai Lama had cost them.

The Chinese are worried that the Dalai Lama is again trying to steal the
limelight and bring unwanted focus on Tibet. New Delhi has always
regarded Tibet as

an autonomous region of China.

This was so right from the beginning at a time India was ready to
shelter the Dalai Lama when he left Tibet in the 1950s. Soon after the
Tibetan spiritual

leader returned to India, ministers in the UPA government were asked not
to attend a felicitation organised by the Gandhi Peace Foundation.
Beijing noted

and appreciated this.

However, now that the Dalai Lama is publicly hinting at choosing his
successor, the Chinese would like a reiteration of New Delhi’s position
on Tibet, which

will be reflected in the joint declaration at the end of the Prime
Minister’s visit in January.

India is likely to ask for a similar reiteration of China’s position on
Sikkim, though Beijing had by the mid-1990s come to acknowledge it as a
part of India.

Despite frequent reports in the Indian media about the Chinese army’s
incursions into the Indian territory, South Block has not often come out
with harsh

public statements against Beijing. This is because both sides realise
that boundary demarcation between the two countries has not been
finalised and the

border remains “disputed”.

Menon’s talks with deputy foreign minister Wu Dawei this time will also
focus on contentious issues such as border talks that have now reached
the sensitive

land-exchange stage. There has been little progress in the negotiations
in the last few rounds. But now the two sides are looking to make more

When national security advisor MK Narayanan visited Beijing ahead of
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s trip in October, he found the Chinese
much more

accommodating and had privately hoped that the tricky boundary problem
would now move towards a final resolution, which both sides want.
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