Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh postponed to April 6; India asks China to respect its sovereignty

Namrata Tripathi
Dalai Lama at the National Prayer Breakfast

The Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh has been postponed to April 6 because of bad weather, according to media reports. His visit to the North Eastern state was put off amid the controversy surrounding China's reaction. China objected to Dalai Lama's visit and warned India of "severe damage" to the Indo-China relationship.

The Dalai Lama was scheduled to leave for Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday after visiting Assam. Tawang is one of the most sacred Buddhist monastries in India. The Buddhist leader on Monday commented on the controversy stating that China's objection to his visit was nothing out of the ordinary.

The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against the Communist rule. China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist and believes that he is set to split the mainland. Hence, it routinely objects to the Buddhist leader's visit to different regions and warns countries of dire consequences of issuing invitation to him.

India's reaction

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India, however, has responded strongly against China's objections stating that the mainland was attempting to create an "artificial controversy." India, on Tuesday, said that the Tibetan spiritual leader has visited Arunachal Pradesh at least six times earlier and that no "additional colour" should be given to his visit to the Indian state. 

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, during a press conference, said that China needs to respect India's sovereignty.

Kiren Rijiju

"India has never interfered in internal affairs of China. We never questioned their sovereignty. We respected their 'One China' policy. So we expect China to respect our sovereignty. We are a free country, we cannot restrict flow of religious leaders," Rijiju said.

Dalai Lama's bond with Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh

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The Dalai Lama has a special bond with Arunachal Pradesh. The spiritual leader had fled Tibet in the backdrop of Chinese aggression March 17, 1959 to the northeastern state in India, along with 20 of his followers. He crossed the tough Himalayan region barefoot during his 11-day trek and reached India to take refuge in a Tawang monastry. He says, it was in Arunachal Pradesh that he first felt a sense of freedom, away from the Chinese regime.

"Whenever I come to the North East of India, it feels like a reunion with people here," the Dalai Lama on Saturday said, "When I revisit Tawang, I am reminded of the freedom that I had experienced for the first time (in 1959). That was the beginning of a new chapter in my life."

The Buddhist monk also added that he is "the longest staying guest of India" but he turns into a child whenever he visits Northeast India.

Why the spiritual leader is visiting Arunachal Pradesh

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This will be the Dalai Lama's sixth visit to the state, he last visited Arunachal Pradesh in 2009. His visit to the state in 2009 was also protested by China, however it did not have any major impact on the relations between the countries.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is now travelling by road and will make his first stop at Bomdila, which is 180 kilometres away from Tawang, according to Hindustan Times.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to consecrate a temple and give blessings to his followers during his week-long stay in Arunachal Pradesh.

Residents of Bomdila and many Tibetan refugee communities in the region have begun cleaning the roads and making preparations in anticipation of his visit. 

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