Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal, may upset China


New Delhi: Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Arunachal Pradesh early next year, a move which may raise the hackles in the official establishment in China that claims the state to be a part of southern Tibet.

Dalai Lama will travel to Arunachal at the invitation of state’s Chief Minister Pema Khandu and the visit is understood to have been cleared by the Centre. The spiritual leader is likely to visit Tawang, the seat of a Buddhist monastry.

Last week, China has reacted strongly to American envoy Richard Verma’s October 22 tour to Tawang, saying the Ambassador visited a “disputed region”.

When asked about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said he is a “guest of India” and is free to travel across the country.

“Dalai Lama is a revered spiritual figure and an honoured guest of India. He is absolutely free to travel to any part of the country.

“It is a fact that he has a sizeable following among the Buddhists in Arunachal Pradesh who like to seek his blessings.

He has visited the state in the past as well and we see nothing unusual if he visits again,” Swarup said.

Arunachal government sources said the state was looking forward to the Dalai Lama’s visit.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet and routinely protests visits by Indian leaders, foreign officials as well as the Dalai Lama to the area.

In the wake of the US envoy’s visit, China had gone to the extent of warning the US that any interference by it in the Sino-India boundary dispute will make it “more complicated” and “disturb” the hard-won peace at the border.

Sources said the Dalai Lama’s visit is likely to take place in March.