China on Wednesday reacted angrily to the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh and said that by ignoring Beijing's concerns on the issue New Delhi has caused "serious damage" to bilateral ties.
India reiterated that no political colour should be attributed to the Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to the north-eastern state.
Diplomatic tensions escalated with the Chinese government summoning the Indian Ambassador in Beijing Vijay Gokhale to lodge its protest. The 81-year-old Tibetan leader, who arrived in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday, said in Bomdila that India has never used him against China.
In a prelude to China's belligerence, the Chinese government media warned that by inviting the Tibetan spiritual leader to the "sensitive region" New Delhi would "gravely damage" India-China relations. China considers most parts of Arunachal Pradesh including Tawang as south Tibet. India has always maintained that Arunachal is an inseparable part of its territory.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, said at a regular briefing, that Beijing was firmly opposed to the Dalai Lama's visit, adding her country would lodge "stern representations with the Indian side".
Hua said that India "in disregard" to China's concerns "obstinately" went ahead to arrange the Tibetan leader's visit, causing "serious damage" to China's interests and China-India relations.
She said that India should "immediately cease using the Dalai Lama's mistaken behaviour to damage China's interests" and not "hype up sensitive" bilateral issues.
The state-run Global Times accused the Indian government of "openly using" the Dalai Lama "as a diplomatic tool to win more leverage".
It said India was trying to play the Tibet card against China as "New Delhi is dissatisfied with Beijing's stance over its membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its request to name Masood Azhar, head of Pakistani militant group, to a UN Security Council blacklist" (See: Chinese media heightens rhetoric on Dalai's Arunachal visit).
Reacting to Beijing's objection against his visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Nobel Peace Laureate said, "There are many in China who love India, but there are some narrow-minded politicians because of their certain views ... they consider me as a demon."
Denying Chinese assertions that India was using him as a diplomatic leverage to challenge China, the Tibetan spiritual leader said, "I am India's longest standing guest. India has never used me against China."
On the Tibetans' stand, he told journalists, ahead of proceeding to Tawang for a major Buddhist event, "We are not seeking independence. We are very much willing to remain with the People's Republic of China. I always used to talk about the spirit of the European Union, individual nations, individual sovereignty but that is not so important, what is important is common interest.
"Tibet is materialistically backward but spiritually highly developed. For material development, we need to remain with the People's Republic China as it is our interest. The government (of China) should feel ok for the mutual benefit," he added.
"China must give us meaningful self-rule, autonomy, and must take care of the environment in Tibet. China has the highest population of Tibetan Buddhists. Many Chinese intellectuals also fully support our cause," he said.
China had protested former US envoy Richard Verma's visit to Tawang last October and warned Washington against meddling in the border dispute between New Delhi and Beijing.
India on Wednesday reiterated that no political colour should be attributed to the Tibetan spiritual leader's trip and that the Dalai Lama has visited Arunachal earlier on half a dozen occasions.
"We also urged that no political colour be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and to his visits to states of India, and no artificial controversy created around his ongoing visit," external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
On Tuesday, India asked China not to interfere in its matters. Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who is from Arunachal Pradesh, said, "India has always been non-interfering in the neighbours' internal affairs in our approach. In the same manner, we expect the same from our neighbours."