Sunday 17 December 2017

Dalai Lama consecrates monastery in India as China warns over relations

The Dalai Lama greets devotees at a monastery in India (AP/ Tenzin Choejor)
The Dalai Lama greets devotees at a monastery in India (AP/ Tenzin Choejor)

The Dalai Lama has consecrated a Buddhist monastery in India amid Chinese warnings that the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to a disputed border region would damage bilateral relations.

Nearly 10,000 people, some of them from neighbouring Bhutan, greeted the Dalai Lama at the Thubchok Gatsel Ling Monastery in Tawang district in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Indian official Jemba Tshering said.

The visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which China also claims as its territory, has raised tensions between the nuclear-armed Asian neighbours.

China's foreign ministry has said the visit "severely harms China's interests and the China-India relationship", while India has cautioned Beijing to stay out of its internal affairs.

China considers the 81-year-old monk, who fled to India in 1959 amid an uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, a separatist seeking Tibet's independence. The Dalai Lama says he merely advocates substantial autonomy and protection of the region's native Buddhist culture.

He reiterated on Wednesday that he, as well as his people, were not seeking Tibet's independence, but are struggling to secure "meaningful autonomy" for the region from China.

"Firstly, we are not seeking independence. We are very much willing to remain within China," he was reported to have said. "At the same time the Chinese government must give us meaningful self-rule, autonomy and must take full care of the environment."

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected arguments that the trip was solely religious in nature, and said China would lodge a formal protest with New Delhi.

The top elected official of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, accompanied the Dalai Lama as he addressed young monks on Wednesday. Mr Khandu said China had no business telling India what to do and what not to do, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

India considers Tibet an integral part of China while rejecting Beijing's claims over about 35,000 square miles in Arunachal Pradesh. India says China is occupying 15,000 square miles of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau.

The visit is the Dalai Lama's seventh to Arunachal Pradesh and his first since 2009. China has criticised previous visits, but they did not spark any major rift between the two countries.

AP

Press Association

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