A Chinese official on Tuesday said progress in talks on Tibet hinged on the Dalai Lama staying clear of political issues, and cautioned the Tibetan religious leader against interfering in the border dispute between India and China.

The ninth round of talks between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government concluded last week. The two sides’ positions on Tibet’s autonomy remained “sharply divided”, said Zhu Weiqun, Executive Vice-Minister, United Front Work Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

In a press briefing here on Tuesday, Mr. Zhu reiterated that any progress depended on the Dalai Lama refraining from involving himself in political matters. He pointed to statements the Tibetan religious leader had made claiming that “southern Tibet” — the Chinese government’s reference to Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which it claims — and “areas south of the McMahon Line belonged to India”. The statements would worsen the Dalai Lama’s relations with the Central government, he warned.

In the days leading up to last week’s talks, China’s state media drew attention to the Dalai Lama’s links with India, where he has been living since he fled Tibet in 1959, to question his standing with Tibetans in China. The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, in a recent article accused the Dalai Lama of “pleasing his Indian masters” by describing himself as “a son of India”. “People cannot help but ask that since the Dalai Lama deems himself an Indian rather than Chinese, then why is he entitled to represent the voice of the Tibetan people?” the paper wrote. It also accused the Dalai Lama of “betraying southern Tibet to India”.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the so-called government-in-exile in Dharamshala, said the Chinese government had taken the Tibetan religious leader’s statements out of context. “China should be focussing on the larger and more pressing problems facing Tibet, rather than dwelling on such small issues,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Samphel said areas south of the McMahon Line had been “legally ceded to India in 1914 under international law”. The Dalai Lama considered himself to be “a citizen of the world”, and his ties to India were in the context of Buddhism’s ancient links to the country.

Keywords: IndiaChinaTibetDalai Lama

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