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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama draws huge crowds on visit slammed by China

November 11, 2009

By Zarir Hussain
November 9, 2009

TAWANG, India -- The Dalai Lama held a mass
audience with tens of thousands of devotees
Monday on a "non-political" visit to a region
near India's border with Tibet that has drawn shrill protests from China.

More than 30,000 people, many of whom arrived
days in advance, packed into an open-air polo
ground near the remote Tawang monastery in the
northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh to
hear the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

"Compassion and peace are the two words that
should be remembered by all," the Dalai Lama said
at the opening of three days of religious teaching.

China, which claims Arunachal as its own
territory, has condemned the week-long visit and
accused the Dalai Lama of seeking to stir up
tensions in relations between New Delhi and Beijing.

On his arrival at Tawang on Sunday, the Dalai
Lama dismissed China's complaints and rejected
charges that he actively promotes anti-China unrest in his homeland.

"My visit to Tawang is non-political," the
74-year-old Nobel laureate told reporters.

"It is quite usual for China to step up
campaigning against me wherever I go," he said.
"It is totally baseless on the part of the
Chinese communist government to say that I am
encouraging a separatist movement."

His comments were splashed on the front pages of
the Indian press and Arunachal state officials on
Monday informally requested journalists to
refrain from asking him questions for the remainder of the visit.

The Indian government had already barred foreign
journalists from covering the event.

Tawang -- 400 years old and the second largest
Tibetan monastery in India -- holds strong memories for the Dalai Lama.

When he fled Tibet following a failed uprising
against Chinese rule, Arunachal was his point of
entry to India and he took refuge in Tawang at
the start of his decades in exile.

"There are a lot of emotions involved," he said
on Sunday, referring to his journey into exile.
"When I escaped from China in 1959, I was mentally and physically very weak.

"The Chinese did not pursue us in 1959, but when
I reached India they started speaking against me."

It was not the Dalai Lama's first return visit to
Tawang but the timing has caused Beijing to protest in a robust fashion.

Indo-Chinese tensions over their disputed
Himalayan border -- the trigger for a brief but
bloody war in 1962 -- have risen in recent
months, with reports of troop movements and minor incursions on both sides.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh toured the
state last month during an election campaign,
prompting warnings from Beijing about harming bilateral ties.

The presence in the disputed region of the Dalai
Lama, whom China regards as a renegade Tibetan
separatist, is seen as a double insult.

China had accused the Dalai Lama and his exiled
"clique" of helping to organise anti-China
protests that erupted in the Tibetan capital
Lhasa in March last year and spread across the Tibetan plateau.

Thousands of Buddhists turned out Sunday to
welcome the Dalai Lama on his arrival at Tawang
monastery, perched in the Himalayan foothills at 3,500 metres (11,400 feet).

"It was a lifetime experience to have seen the
Dalai Lama from so close," said a young monk
called Sherbu. "He waved back at us and I
consider this to be a blessing for me and the people here."

Before he began his religious teaching at the
polo ground on Monday, the Dalai Lama opened a
multi-speciality hospital in Tawang to which he
had contributed two million rupees (40,000 dollars).

"The hospital will go a long way to meeting the
healthcare needs of the local people," he said.

The ecstatic welcome he has received here is
likely to deepen China's suspicions over the true motive behind the visit.

The Dalai Lama has had several recent health
scares, fuelling speculation over his reincarnation and successor.

China is almost sure to make its own selection.
The Dalai Lama, however, has stated that his
reincarnation may be found outside Chinese Tibet,
and Arunachal, with its rich Tibetan culture, is an obvious contender.
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