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India reaffirms Dalai Lama can visit disputed state

October 20, 2009

October 16, 2009

NEW DELHI -- India has reaffirmed Tibetan
spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's right to visit
its disputed border region with China in the face
of objections from Beijing, a report said Saturday.

The India-based Dalai Lama is slated to visit
next month the northeastern state of Arunachal
Pradesh, at the centre of a long-simmering border
dispute between the giant neighbours.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India 50 years ago
after China crushed an uprising in his Tibetan
homeland, is denounced by Beijing as a
"splittist" despite his calls for autonomy rather
than full independence for Tibet.

"The Dalai Lama is a religious figure and he does
not indulge in political activities," India's
foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said Friday,
according to The Indian Express newspaper.

"He is our guest in India and he is free to visit
any part of our country," she added.

Rao said China's objections to the Buddhist
leader's visit had been taken "seriously" but
India has been clear about its own position.

India says China occupies 38,000 square
kilometres (14,700 square miles) of its Himalayan
territory, while Beijing claims all of Arunachal
Pradesh, which covers 90,000 square kilometres.

"Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India," Rao said.

An official of the Dalai Lama in the northern
Indian hill town of Dharamshala, home to the
spiritual leader's government-in-exile, said last
month the visit to Arunachal Pradesh was "purely religious in nature."

Beijing's objections to the Dalai Lama's trip are
the latest in a series of tensions to buffet
prickly ties between India and China.

The two nations fought a border war in 1962 in
which Chinese troops advanced deep into Arunachal
Pradesh and inflicted heavy casualties on Indian troops.

Rao's remarks came after India and China traded
diplomatic jabs earlier this month over a visit
in early October by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the state.

Indian media has reported Singh and his Chinese
counterpart Wen Jiabao are expected to meet on
the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Bangkok.

New Delhi has called for Beijing to take a
"long-term view" of India-China ties.
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