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China opposes Dalai Lama trip to disputed India state

September 13, 2009

September 11, 2009

By Krittivas Mukherjee

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama plans to visit soon a northeastern
Indian state, part of which China claims as its territory, an aide said on
Friday in a trip that could again rile Beijing after it denounced his visit
to Taiwan this month.

Chhime Chhoekyapa, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's aide, told Reuters
the Dalai Lama would be in Arunachal Pradesh state in the second week of
November.

"He is going there for teaching. This has nothing to do with politics, there
is nothing political about it," Chhoekyapa said.

The intended visit has already sparked consternation in China, which claims
about 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh along their border as part of its
territory, and could become another irritant in ties already dogged by a
border dispute.

"China expresses strong concern about this information. The visit further
reveals the Dalai clique's anti-China and separatist essence," Jiang Yu, the
spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, said in a statement faxed to
Reuters.

"China's stance on the so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh' is consistent. We
firmly oppose Dalai visiting the so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh'," Jiang said.

The Dalai Lama's travel plan was announced a week after the completion of
his visit to Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing. China denounced
the trip.

A visit to Arunachal Pradesh could now draw further attention to China's
treatment of Tibetan activists and the Dalai Lama's calls for cultural and
religious freedoms and autonomy.

China considers the Dalai Lama a "splittist" who seeks to separate nearly a
quarter of the land mass of the People's Republic of China.

"TIMING SIGNIFICANT"

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against
Chinese rule, denies the charge and says he seeks greater rights for
Tibetans.

"The timing of his trip (to Arunachal Pradesh) is significant. It comes
while the debate over his visit to Taiwan is still hot," said Bhaskar Roy, a
New Delhi-based China expert.

"Tibetans are as good at playing these games as the Chinese. They know such
a visit will keep up the pressure on China."

The trip has ramifications for India-China relations as well.

India and China fought a short war in 1962 and, despite burgeoning trade in
recent years, mistrust remains. Both sides jostle for resources and
influence as they seek a global role.

This year, the two countries have faced off at multi-lateral forums,
including Chinese objections to a $60 million Asian Development Bank loan
for a project in Arunachal Pradesh.

Indian media have repeatedly reported "incursions" by Chinese soldiers
patrolling the 3,500-km (2,200-mile) border, disputed at various stretches.

In response, India has begun modernising its border roads and moved a
squadron of strike aircraft close to the China border. Arunachal Governor
J.J. Singh said in June up to 30,000 new troops would be deployed in the
area.

"From India's point of view the Dala Lama's visit will restate Arunachal
Pradesh as Indian territory," said Roy.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet through Arunachal Pradesh, which has a substantial
Buddhist population.

(Additional reporting by Yu Le in BEIJING; Editing by Paul Tait)
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