After hosting the U.S. Ambassador, Arunachal Pradesh is preparing to welcome the Dalai Lama for another controversial visit which is likely to attract criticism from China.
Confirming the invitation to the Tibetan spiritual leader, a source in the office of Chief Minister Pema Khandu told The Hindu that the invitation was extended on October 9 and is aimed at bringing the spiritual figure to his followers in the border State.
“The Dalai Lama has been invited to Arunachal Pradesh for a fortnight-long visit during March 2017, when he is expected to visit Tawang, Itanagar and the eastern districts of the state,” the official told The Hindu . He said that there was no specific religious occasion for the visit and that it was planned since the spiritual leader had a special link with the State, especially with Tawang as he came to India through the mountain route of Tawang.
The timing of the announcement is significant as it comes days after China criticised Richard Verma, U.S. envoy to India, for visiting Tawang that it declared as “disputed.” Responding to the Chinese criticism of the visit of the U.S. envoy, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the visit was not unusual as he visited a province of India to which he was accredited.
Mr. Verma sent out social media messages after visiting Tawang and thanked the Arunachal government for the hospitality extended to him. Arunchal Chief Minister Pema Khandu had said in a message in social media “America makes its presence in Tawang festival. Thank you Richard Verma for making the festival a global event by your presence.”
Dalai Lama had drawn criticism from Beijing for visiting Tawang during the annual Tawang festival in 2009 when he marked half-century of his exile from Tibet. The official said that the Dalai Lama could not respond to all previous official invites from Arunachal Pradesh, but has given verbal confirmation that he would visit the State next spring.