Despite a warning from China that it would damage bilateral ties, Union government representatives will meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Arunachal Pradesh in April, officials said.
India said the Tibetan spiritual leader will make a religious trip to Arunachal Pradesh next month, and as a secular democracy it would not stop him from travelling to any part of the country.
A trip by the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese regard as a dangerous separatist, would ratchet up tensions at a time when India is at odds with China on strategic and security issues amid Beijing’s growing ties with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is raising its public engagement with the Tibetan leader, a change from earlier governments’ reluctance to anger Beijing by sharing a public platform with him.
“It’s a behavioural change you are seeing. India is more assertive,” Kiren Rijiju, Union minister of state for home affairs, told Reuters in an interview.
Rijiju, who is from Arunachal and is PM Modi’s point man on Tibetan issues, said he would meet the Dalai Lama, who is visiting the Buddhist Tawang monastery after an eight-year interval.
“He is going there as a religious leader, there is no reason to stop him. His devotees are demanding he should come, what harm can he do? He is a lama,” Rijiju added.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday the Dalai Lama’s trip would cause serious damage to India-China ties, and warned New Delhi not to provide him a platform for anti-China activities.
“The Dalai clique has for a long time carried out anti-China separatist activities and on the issue of the China-India border has a history of disgraceful performances,” spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.