India says its position on Dalai Lama unchanged

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New Delhi, March 2 (IANS) Responding to a newspaper report that cited a Union government advisory asking central and state government functionaries and leaders to stay away from the Dalai Lama-led “Thank You India” campaign, the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) on Friday said that Indias position on the Tibetan leader is “unchanged”.

“The government of India’s position on His Holiness the Dalai Lama is clear and consistent. He is a revered religious leader and is deeply respected by the people of India,” MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

“There is no change in that position. His Holiness is accorded all freedom to carry out his religious activities in India,” he added.

However, the MEA steered clear of commenting on the advisory sent out by the Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha on February 26 at the Foreign Secretary’s behest — as reported by daily Indian Express on Friday — in which he has told “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” of the Centre and states that it was “not desirable” to participate in the events of the Tibetan leadership in exile.

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The Tibetan “government-in-exile” has planned a series of events in March-end and early April to commemorate 60 years of the Dalai Lama’s arrival in India in 1959 to escape the Chinese persecution.

The Cabinet Secretary’s directive refers to a note sent by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale sent on February 22 – just ahead of Gokhale’s visit to Beijing – in which he had requested Sinha to issue a “classified circular advisory advising all Ministries/Departments of Government of India as well as sate governments not to accept any invitation or to participate in the proposed events”.

The move is being seen as India’s attempt to mend ties with Beijing which sharply deteriorated after the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April (from April 4-12) last year.

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China first stopped sharing upstream data on Brahmaputra from mid-May last year and then the standoff in Doklam started around mid-June which could be resolved only two-and-half months later in August.

Although the Dalai Lama is widely revered in India as a great spiritual Buddhist leader, China sees him as a “dangerous separatist”.

–IANS

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