Saying no “artificial controversy” should be created around the visit of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, India has called on China not to interfere in its internal affairs.

The Dalai Lama arrived Tuesday in the border territory that is also partially claimed by China.  But his stop at the famous Tawang monastery where he is due to deliver sermons was delayed due to bad weather.

The Buddhist monk’s visit to the sensitive eastern Himalayan region has become a flashpoint between the two Asian neighbors and analysts say it could lead to a diplomatic chill.    

Following strident Chinese objections to the visit, India’s junior home minister, Kiren Rijiju, said Tuesday India had never interfered in China’s internal affairs and expected the same from its Asian neighbor.  

“We also never questioned the Chinese sovereignty and India has respectfully adhered to “One China” policy.  So we expect China should also not interfere in our internal matters,” said Rijiju, who is the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s point man on Tibetan relations.  “Being a democratic and secular country, India cannot stop or restrict the visit or program of any religious leader in our country.”

China last week warned India the Dalai Lama’s visit to what it called a “disputed territory” will damage relations and urged New Delhi against taking any actions that would complicate a boundary dispute between the two countries.

China disputes ‘religious’ nature

Rijiju, who is also a Buddhist, is scheduled to be in Arunachal Pradesh during the Dalai Lama’s trip.  He says he is going as a devotee, but some commentators in China say the federal minister’s presence indicates the Buddhist monk’s visit is not purely religious as India maintains.  

But New Delhi reiterated the visit has no political significance, pointing out this is not the first time the Dalai Lama will be in Arunachal Pradesh. India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement “no additional color should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India.”

The Dalai Lama also went to Arunachal Pradesh eight years ago in 2009.

Analysts say although Beijing routinely opposes visits by foreign dignitaries to the sensitive border state, including the Dalai Lama’s previous visit, its objections have been far sharper this time.

But India is determined to brush off those warnings, says Jayadeva Ranade at the Center for China Analysis and Strategy in New Delhi, adding that Beijing has also not been sensitive to Indian concerns in the past year on a range of issues.  

He says, “If the Chinese try and apply pressure, that will not work.  They have to concede to our core interests and then there can be compromises which can be worked out.”  

Indian analysts ascribe the growing chill in ties between India and China to Beijing’s increasingly closer relations with New Delhi’s archrival – Pakistan. 

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