New Delhi – The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Saturday began a 12-day trip to India’s north-east, with Beijing repeatedly warning that the tour would adversely impact its ties with India.
The Dalai Lama, who began his trip with a public talk in the city of Guwahati in Assam state, is scheduled Tuesday to visit neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh which China claims is part of southern Tibet and therefore Chinese territory.
China firmly opposes the Dalai Lama’s visit to areas where the India and China have territorial disputes and stated its concerns to New Delhi multiple times, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during his regular press briefing Friday in Beijing.
“India still invites the 14th Dalai Lama to visit disputed areas of China-India borders. This will gravely damage the peace and stability of the border regions between China and India and China-India relations,” the Chinese spokesman said.
“Everything is normal,” the Dalai Lama said in response to questions on Beijing’s warnings during a media interaction in Guwahati, the Times of India newspaper reported.
Buddhist-majority Arunachal Pradesh has one of the world’s largest centres of Tibetan Buddhism in the town of Tawang, where the Dalai Lama is scheduled to deliver teachings on Buddhism from Wednesday to Friday.
The 400-year-old Tawang monastery was the Dalai Lama’s first stop when he fled to India in 1959 after China’s stern steps against a Tibetan rebellion.
The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel peace prize, is considered a separatist by China, which accuses him of fomenting unrest in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile is based in Dharamsala in the hills of northern India.