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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?"

Remote Indian state readies for Dalai Lama visit

November 8, 2009

The Associated Press (AP)
November 6, 2009

TAWANG, India -- Buddhist monks and nuns spruced
up their monasteries and hung up welcome banners
Friday in anticipation of the Dalai Lama's
contentious visit to this remote Indian town near the Tibetan frontier.

China has strongly protested the Dalai Lama's
visit starting Sunday to the Indian state of
Arunachal Pradesh, which lies at the heart of a
long-running border dispute between the two Asian
powers. The visit also brings the Tibetan
spiritual leader to the edge of his Himalayan homeland, which China controls.

Regardless of the political tensions, the
residents of Tawang see the visit as a rare
opportunity to host the Buddhist leader.

Buddhist monks painted roofs Friday while nuns
scrubbed the floors of monasteries. Young monks
climbed scaffolding to hang up multicolored
banners with pictures of the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader, who last visited in 2003.

"The air is filled with a religious and festive
fervor," Lama Lopon, one of the head priests of
the main Tawang Monastery, told The Associated Press.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to lead a three-day
prayer session in Tawang for 20,000 followers
from the region and the neighboring Himalayan countries of Bhutan and Nepal.

On Thursday, India effectively barred foreign
journalists from covering the event, in an
apparent effort to ease Chinese anger by reducing news coverage of the trip.

China and India claim vast swathes of each
other's territory along their 2,175-mile (3,500
kilometer) border, which has remained largely
peaceful since a border war in 1962. Over the
last few years, officials from the two countries
have conducted 13 rounds of talks to resolve the
dispute over the border but have made scant progress.

Associated Press writer Wasbir Hussain contributed to this story from Gauhati.
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