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Dalai Lama trip puts giants at odds

September 20, 2009

Brisbane Times - September 19, 2009
MATT WADE, DELHI

FOR a man devoted to harmony, the Dalai Lama has a knack for causing discord
between India and China.

In a snub to Beijing, the Indian Government will allow the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader to travel to Tawang, a town claimed by China in the far
north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Tawang is the site of one of Tibetan Buddhism's most important temples. When
His Holiness wanted to visit the remote Himalayan town late last year, Delhi
reportedly said no.

However, India's External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna, said on Wednesday
that the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, can travel anywhere he
wants in the country.

The Dalai Lama's plans have irritated Beijing, which claims about 90,000
square kilometres of Arunachal Pradesh.

The province's disputed border follows the ''McMahon Line'' drawn up in 1914
when the British ruled India and Tibet had declared itself independent.
China does not recognise this demarcation. By allowing the Dalai Lama's
visit, Delhi will make a strong statement about India's sovereignty over the
disputed territory.

''We firmly oppose the Dalai visiting the so-called Arunachal Pradesh,'' a
Chinese Government spokesman said last week.

The controversy comes amid Indian media reports about alleged incursions by
Chinese troops at several points on the long Sino-Indian border.

In the Ladakh province in far-north India, a Chinese patrol reportedly
painted the words ''Yellow river'' on a boulder on the Indian side of the
border. Weapons are now carried on previously unarmed Indian and Chinese
boats patrolling the Pangong Lake, 150 kilometres north of the Ladakh city
of Leh, the Hindustan Times reported.

Incursions were also reported this month in the Indian state of Uttaranchal,
near Nepal. Official figures reported by The Times of India show there were
2285 border ''violations'' by Chinese troops in 2008, compared with 778 in
2007.

Cool heads in Delhi say the border incidents are inevitable given the lack
of clarity over long stretches of the China-India divide. There are
allegations that sections of the Indian media are deliberately ''bashing''
China to appeal to India's nationalistic middle class.

Australian National University professor Sandy Gordon, who has written about
the Sino-Indian relationship, said the border dispute posed a significant
challenge for the two countries.

Long-running negotiations have failed to clarify the disputed stretches of
border, and Professor Gordon said China's demand for large parts of
Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang - an apparent shift from its negotiating
position in 2005 - was especially troubling for India.

''Both countries now see themselves as rising powers, so it is a very
difficult time for them to be dealing with this in terms of public
perceptions,'' he said.

''But the good news is that the two governments seem to be aware of what's
at stake.''

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, a foreign policy specialist and senior editor of the
Hindustan Times, said the India-China relationship was deteriorating, but
both governments were working to reduce tensions.

''The game is to basically manage the relationship so it never gets out of
hand,'' Chaudhuri said. ''Because the last thing the two countries want is
to get into a major conflict of any variety.''

Source: The Age
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