As China stepped up its protest against the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Union government fielded Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to make India’s stand clear.
Mr. Rijiju, who represents Arunachal Pradesh in the Lok Sabha, said on Tuesday that the visit was “purely religious” and “China shouldn’t interfere in India’s internal matters.”
China has objected to the Dalai Lama’s visit because Beijing considers Arunachal Pradesh its territory and has referred to the Dalai Lama as “separatist leader.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry has warned India that his visit would cause “serious damage” to bilateral ties.
“China is trying to project the Dalai Lama as a political person. We don’t have any intention of engaging with the Dalai Lama so as to irritate China,” Mr. Rijiju told The Hindu in an interaction.
The Dalai Lama is on a week-long tour of Arunachal Pradesh, where he will hold religious discourses in Tawang, Bomdila and other areas.
He will also consecrate a gompa (Buddhist place of learning) at Nafra, Mr. Rijiju’s native village. Mr. Rijiju, a practising Buddhist, will accompany the Dalai Lama for two days during his visit to Bomdila and Tawang.
The failing health and old age of the Dalai Lama has worried the security agencies.
Poor weather conditions
“The poor weather conditions in Arunachal Pradesh have affected the schedule. So, instead of taking an aircraft, he will have to travel by road. His knees are not in good shape, and he has refused to be operated upon. The real worry is how he would undertake such long road trips,” a senior official said.
The Ministry of External Affairs has said the Dalai Lama has visited the State on six earlier occasions, from 1983 to 2009, and “no artificial controversy should be created over his present visit.”
“As an Arunachali, it’s my duty to welcome our revered guest. China is trying to project him as a political person; he is our guest. There is no intention of engaging with the Dalai Lama to irritate China. For the people of Arunachal, it’s not a disputed territory. In a sovereign country, you cannot restrict the movement of a religious leader,” Mr. Rijiju said.
He said he had accompanied the Dalai Lama during his visit to the State in 2009, and then too, China protested vociferously.