Saturday 1 October 2016

Sri Lanka likely to block Dalai Lama visit

Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal

Published 02/04/2015 | 17:50

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, left, greets devotees on his arrival at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India Credit: Ashwini Bhatia
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, left, greets devotees on his arrival at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India Credit: Ashwini Bhatia

Sri Lanka is expected to block the Dalai Lama's entry into the country over fears of angering China, a major investor in the region.

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Sri Lankan Buddhist monks invited the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to make his first visit to the island following the collapse of the country's strongly pro-China government.

New President Maithripala Sirisena has loosened ties with Beijing and moved closer to India, which has hosted the Dalai Lama since he fled Tibet in 1959.

But the majority Buddhist island, which is home to some of the religion's most sacred sites, still depends on China for major development investment and loans.

"They can invite, but the government may not grant a visa," a top foreign minister official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

"The Dalai Lama is very important. But the close relationship with China is more important and we have not changed our stance on 'One China' policy."

As China has grown more economically powerful it has used its influence to dissuade world leaders from meeting the Dalai Lama, whom it denounces as a dangerous separatist, but only a handful of countries outright prohibit him from visiting.

China offered Sri Lanka over €900 million in grants during a four-day official visit to Beijing by Sirisena last week, underscoring how lucrative the relationship remains for the island that is rebuilding after a long civil war.

Reuters

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