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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Will India ask the Dalai Lama to postpone Tawang visit?

October 28, 2009

B. Raman
RediffNews
October 26, 2009

India reaction to China protests over the Dalai
Lama's visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is
one of studied ambivalence, writes B Raman

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who discussed
India-China bilateral issues with Chinese Prime
Minister Wen Jiabao, on two occasions during his
visit to Hua Hin in Thailand for the summit with
ASEAN leaders, has maintained a studied
ambivalence on the question of the reported plans
of the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang in Arunachal
Pradesh next month to declare open a hospital
constructed with assistance from the Tibetan exile community in India.

China has repeatedly protested against the
proposed visit. The latest protest was handed
over by the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi to
the ministry of external affairs on the eve of
the Hua Hin meeting between the two leaders.

Bilateral issues figured in the meeting of the
two prime ministers on the margins of the summit
on October 24, as well as during a dinner hosted
by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for the participants in the summit.

While the subject of the Dalai Lama's proposed
visit did not appear to have figured at the
bilateral meeting, it did figure during the
discussions at the dinner as reportedly stated by
Dr Singh himself during his interactions with
Indian journalists, who had accompanied him. It
is not clear whether the Thai dinner preceded the
bilateral meeting or followed it.

Dr Singh was careful in the formulation of his
remarks on the Dalai Lama's visit. He said: "I
explained to Premier Wen that Dalai Lama is our
honoured guest and he is a religious leader. We
do not allow Tibetan refugees to indulge in
political activities and proof of that is that we
took resolute action against some Tibetans during
the Olympics torch relay last year following
reports that some Tibetan refugees might create problems."

The most significant part of his formulation came
in reply to a question from a journalist on the
Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
Dr Singh said he was not aware of the Dalai Lama's plans.

The proposed visit to Tawang in response to a
local invitation from Arunachal Pradesh had been
figuring in media reports for nearly two months
now and the Chinese have repeatedly protested
against it. Minister for External Affairs S M
Krishna [ Images ], had said that the Dalai Lama
was free to visit any part of India.

Till now, the prime minister himself had
maintained a total silence on the issue. To have
ruled out the visit would have been politically
unwise for the Congress in view of the recent
elections in Arunachal Pradesh. Now that the
elections are over and the Congress has retained
power, the prime minister no longer seems to feel
the need to observe political caution on the subject.

Is he preparing the ground for ending the
controversy and defusing the tension with Beijing
on the subject by quietly persuading the Dalai
Lama to postpone the visit for some personal reasons?
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