India and China are having their roughest week in the past year as Beijing threatens to downgrade the bilateral relationship in the wake of the ongoing visit of the Tibetan holy leader, the Dalai Lama, to Arunachal Pradesh.
China on Wednesday said that it will lodge a diplomatic protest with India for ‘obstinately’ allowing the Dalai Lama to visit ‘disputed’ Arunachal Pradesh, causing ‘serious damage’ to bilateral ties.
“India, in disregard to China’s concerns, obstinately arranged the Dalai Lama’s visit to the disputed part of the eastern part of the China-India border, causing serious damage to China’s interests and China-India relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters.
“Arranging his visit to those sensitive and disputed areas not only runs counter to the Indian side’s commitment to the issues related to Tibet but also escalates disputes over the border area,” she said.
The 81-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader reached Bomdila in West Kameng district on Tuesday, starting his nine-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
On Tuesday, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said that when India has never interfered in Beijing’s affairs, and has respected the “One China” policy, China should not interfere in India’s internal affairs or object to the Dalai Lama’s visit.
“Arunachal Pradesh is an inseparable part of India and China should not object to his visit and interfere in India’s internal affairs,” Rijiju said, insisting that China should not create an “artificial controversy.”
“There is no political angle behind his holiness’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. It is completely religious,” he said.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson rejected Rijiju’s comments, saying “China upholds the policy of not interfering with other countries internal affairs. This is unquestionable.”
“Could you tell me honestly do you seriously believe that Dalai is only a religious leader. I think the answer is known to all. He is not just a religious figure. Therefore, his visit to the place will not be purely of religious purpose. So using the empty words to defend this arrangement is not reasonable. We demand the Indian side to stop this move of undermining Chinese interests,” she said.
As for the Chinese threat that India should back off otherwise the deteriorating relationship will have an impact on the border issue, Indian officials say the Chinese can only ramp up their strategic relationship with Pakistan in the west in order to make life more troublesome for India.
But India seems to be prepared for that,at least, for the time being. Modi still hasn’t taken a strategic decision to resume talks with Pakistan, despite small ongoing initiatives.
Delhi has had to bite its tongue twice over the last year. First, when none other than the Chinese President Xi Jinping refused Prime Minister Modi’s request in July 2016 to allow India to accede to the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Second, towards the end of 2016, Beijing denied Delhi the comfort of having the UN censure Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar by disapproving sanctions against him and Masood Azhar being blacklisted by the UN Security Council, which would lead to an international travel ban on the terrorist and freeze all his asset
Delhi is now paying China back in its own coin. Officials point out that “things cannot get worse than they are already.” Delhi has been smarting so long under China’s perceived arrogance that it decided to pick on its Achilles heel,Tibet and the Dalai Lama.