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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

India can open consulate in Lhasa: Chinese official

August 26, 2009

IANS
August 25, 2009

LHASA -- More than 40 years after bad blood
between India and China closed down the Indian
consulate in Tibetan capital Lhasa, a Chinese
foreign ministry official says New Delhi can re-open it any time it wants.

"India can set up a consulate in Lhasa," said
Jujian Hua, director at Tibet's Foreign Affairs
Office. "That depends on India."

With the 13th round of border talks between India
and China resuming in New Delhi earlier this
month, Beijing is emphasizing that it wants
improved relations with its southern neighbour.

"The (resumption of) cross-border talks between
China and India represents a great step in the
relationship between the two countries," Jujian
told a visiting IANS correspondent.

"The two governments started communication
several years ago in terms of trade and culture.
The local government (of Tibet) has attached
great importance to trade, culture and tradition
(exchanges), including tourism."

According to him, tourism has greatly increased
with more than 12,000 Indian pilgrims visiting
Tibet this year to circumambulate Mt Kailash, the
6,638m Himalayan peak in Tibet's Nari province
that is venerated by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike.

"Deepening the bilateral relationship really
depends on India," the official said.

"Between friends, we should communicate more so
that our relationship is strengthened. The
central government of China and the Tibet
Autonomous Region have a very positive attitude."

However, the official rued that New Delhi has
several times refused visa to Chinese delegates.

"Several trade and cultural delegations (headed
for India) didn't get visas," he said.

According to him, even a month ago, a trade
delegation headed by the vice-governor of Tibet
was refused visa by the Indian authorities.

Though officials stop short of spelling it out,
the major irritant in India-China ties is the
presence of the Dalai Lama and his
'government-in-exile' in India's Dharamsala town.

China officially calls the exiled former ruler of
Tibet a separatist and his 'government' illegal
and it is clear that exchanges between the two
governments could improve remarkably if India
closes down the 'government-in-exile', just as
Nepal closed the office of the Dalai Lama's envoy in Kathmandu four years ago.

"The 'government-in-exile' is not in line with
international laws," says Angpu Gejyuan,
vice-director of the Religion and Nationalities Committee.

"No government admits such exiled governments.
China and India are two ancient civilisations. We
want the Indian government to do that which
benefits the relationship and friendship between the two countries."

The Indian consulate in Lhasa was closed
following the tumult in Tibet beginning from the
1950s after China annexed the former Buddhist
kingdom and the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India
following a failed uprising in 1959.

Three years later, China attacked India and the
Indian consulate in Lhasa was closed.

At present, Nepal is the only country to be
allowed a consulate in Lhasa, the Forbidden City.
Though there have been rapid changes in Nepal's
own political scenario, its successive
governments, though diverse, have upheld the same
foreign policy that considers Tibet, along with
Taiwan, to be an integral and inalienable part of China.

As memories of the 1962 war faded, India was
allowed to open a consulate in Shanghai last year
besides the embassy in Beijing, and then Indian
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee
inaugurated a second consulate at Guangzhou, a
diplomatic concession for which India in turn
gave China permission to re-open the Chinese
Consulate in Kolkata that had been closed after the 1962 war.

Besides India, the US is also seeking to open a
consulate in Lhasa. In May, the Foreign Affairs
Committee at the US House of Representatives
passed a bill authorising the Secretary of State
to establish a consulate in Lhasa.

US President Barack Obama will visit China in
November when he is expected to push for the new consulate.
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