BEIJING: The Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh in March will damage India's relationship with China, Beijing has warned today.
The invitation to the "Dalai Lama for activity in the disputed areas between China and India will only damage peace and stability of the border areas as well as the bilateral relationship between China and India," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
The tension over the proposed trip comes as China has blocked India from joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a powerful 48-nation bloc, and is seen as siding with long-time ally Pakistan at a time when New Delhi and Islamabad are caught in the worst tension in over a decade.
The Dalai Lama has been invited to Arunachal Pradesh by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, whose coalition government includes the BJP. The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader last visited the border state in 2009.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet. Earlier this week, it objected furiously to American ambassador Richard Verma's trip to the Northeastern state, warning America not to "meddle" in the border dispute with India.
The Dalai Lama, denounced by China as a separatist for seeking independence for Tibet, fled from there through Arunachal Pradesh in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He is expected on his trip to visit a famous Buddhist monastery of Tawang.
Yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup confirmed that the Dalai Lama, "a guest of India," is free to visit the region.
On October 21, the US Ambassador posted photos on his Twitter account of his recent trip to Arunachal Pradesh, thanking Indian officials for their "warm hospitality" and calling the region a "magical place". Beijing asked the US to "stop getting involved in the China-India territorial dispute."
China claims more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) of territory disputed by India in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. Much of that forms the state of Arunachal Pradesh. India rejects that claim and says China occupies 38,000 square km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west
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