China on Friday said it was "seriously concerned" about the Dalai Lama's visit next week to Arunachal Pradesh, repeating its earlier warning to India that the visit would "seriously damage" relations.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry had said on March 3 it had raised the issue with India, and was "gravely" concerned. The Dalai Lama is set to leave for a tour of the northeast this weekend, and will visit Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh likely next Wednesday.
Replying to a question at a daily press briefing on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said, "We are seriously concerned about the news. On the eastern section of the China India border, China's position is clear and consistent. The Dalai clique has long been engaging in separatist activities with an inglorious record. India should be very clear with the true nature of the Dalai clique."
He added, "But despite this India still invited the Dalai Lama to visit the region. This will cause serious damage to bilateral relations."
China claims 90,000 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh, and has since 1985 especially voiced claims on Tawang, an important monastery town for Tibetans and the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is viewed by Beijing as "a splittist", and his visit to Tawang in 2009 brought an angry response from Beijing.
"China firmly opposes the Dalai Lama carrying out any activities in the relevant region," Lu said, "and we have expressed our concerns to the Indian side. We urge India to stick to its political statements, respect the consensus and avoid doing anything that might further complicate the matter. It should not provide any platform for the Dalai clique and only that way can China-India relations move forward in a sound and steady way."
Lu added, at the same time, "China and India are two major developing countries and we are close neighbours. It is very important for the two peoples to maintain sound and steady China India relations. But such a relationship has to be built on certain foundations. Such visits will have a deep damage on China India relations. We have asked India to stick to its political pledges and not to hurt China-India relations. It will come down to India to make a choice."
In recent months, the Dalai Lama issue has once again emerged as a strain in ties, with India appearing to be less cautious than in the past when it deferred to Chinese sensitivities by rarely holding official engagements with the Dalai Lama.
In December, the Dalai Lama was for the first time hosted in Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Pranab Mukherjee along with other Nobel laureates, triggering a demarche from Beijing, although India insisted this was a social event with no political undertones.
China in March also objected to the Dalai Lama being invited by the Ministry of Culture to a prominent event in Nalanda, Bihar, where the Tibetan spiritual leader in a rare instance shared the stage with Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.