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Times View: He's our guest, it's our country

September 15, 2009

Times of India - 15 September 2009

The Chinese are upset, once more, with the Indian establishment. This time
it's because the Dalai Lama is planning to visit Tawang, in Arunachal
Pradesh, and New Delhi is unlikely to stop him from doing so. China, which
lays claim on Arunachal Pradesh, wants India to prevent the exiled Tibetan
leader from entering the state. Just last year, the Dalai Lama had to cancel
his visit to the same area as the Indian administration denied him
permission, reportedly under pressure from China. But this time, New Delhi
is standing firm.

China has gone back on the guiding principles the two countries agreed upon
to sort territorial disputes by claiming not just Tawang but the whole of
Arunachal Pradesh. With an increasing number of incursions by members of the
People's Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control as well as Chinese
attempts to block Asian Development Bank funds for Arunachal Pradesh,
Beijing has shown little sensitivity to New Delhi's interests.

It's time, therefore, that New Delhi also got more assertive about its
position. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and it is India
alone that can decide who is free to visit that state. It is not Beijing's
business to be dictating whether the Dalai Lama or for that matter any other
person it dislikes can or cannot travel within Indian territory.

India has made it clear that the Dalai Lama cannot conduct a political
campaign within its territory. The Dalai Lama's visit is supposed to be a
religious one and as long as he sticks to that agenda, there is no reason to
restrict his travels. Keeping New Delhi on the diplomatic hop by
administering pinpricks may be part of Beijing's strategy. While Beijing has
settled its boundary disputes with most of its neighbours, India remains the
sole exception. Recently Taiwan approved a visit by the Dalai Lama over
Beijing's objections, even though its president Ma Ying-jeou is reputed to
be pro-Chinese. There's no reason for New Delhi to bend backwards to suit
the Chinese.
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