‘Sensitive time’ for ties with China, skip Dalai Lama event in Delhi: Indian Government

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, March 2: India has asked its ‘senior leaders’ and ‘government functionaries’ of both the Centre as well as states to stay away from events planned for March-end and early April by the Tibetan administration in exile to mark the start of 60 years in exile of the Dalai Lama citing it is a ‘sensitive time’ for India-China relations, according to a report on The Indian Express.

A note to the effect was sent by the Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha on Feb 22, a day before he flew to Beijing to hold talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and to meet with Foreign Minister Wang and State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the report added.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping at BRICS 2017. Image-PTI

‘Thank You India’, a year-long campaign by the Central Tibetan Administration(CTA) will formally kick-off with an interfaith meeting, which will be attended by the Dalai Lama at Rajghat, New Delhi on Mar 31.

China considers the Tibetan spiritual leader a ‘splittist’ and a ‘dangerous separatist’ and often warns politicians  against meeting with him. On October 21 last year, Beijing issued a warning to the world leaders against meeting world leaders. “Foreign leaders can’t think they can get away with meeting exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama just because they are doing it in a personal capacity, as they still represent their government,” said Zhang Yijiong, the head of Communist Party’s Tibet working group.

Gokhale, India’s Foreign Secretary and former Ambassador to Beijing have requested Sinha to issue a classified circular advisory directing all Ministries/Departments of Government of India as well as State Governments against accepting any invitation or to participate in the proposed commemorative events, the report said.

“The proposed period will be a very sensitive time in the context of India’s relations with China. Participation by senior leaders or government functionaries, either from the Central Government or State Governments, is not desirable, and should be discouraged,” the foreign minister wrote to the Cabinet Secretary.

“It is ‘not desirable’ to participate in the events of the Tibetan leadership in exile,” Sinha wrote to the secretaries and heads of government departments.

The Cabinet secretary further quoted the Foreign Secretary’s note to underline ‘the sensitive nature of the subject’ and said, “Participation in these events ‘should be discouraged’ and accordingly, you are requested to ensure appropriate action in the matter.”

Although India has directed its ‘senior leaders’ and ‘government functionaries’ of both the Centre as well as states to stay away from the commemorative event that will also be attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it has maintained that there is no change on its stand on the Dalai Lama.

“India’s position on the Dalai Lama “is clear and consistent. He is a revered religious leader and is deeply respected by the people of India. There is no change in that position. His Holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India,” reads a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) will launch a year-long ‘Thank You India’ campaign from Mar 31, 2018, to mark 60 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet and the beginning of the 60th year since His Holiness the Dalai Lama stepped on Indian soil as a refugee.

President of the CTA, Dr Lobsang Sangay inaugurated the year-long ‘Thank You India’ campaign at a press conference held at the Press Club of India in New Delhi earlier on Jan 18, and described the campaign as a symbol of gratitude of the Tibetan people towards their host country.

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