Dharamsala, Oct 20: China said Tuesday it was "firmly opposed" to a planned visit by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian region at the centre of a border dispute with China.
Exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama is slated to visit the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh sometime next month. The proposed November trip will be the Dalai Lama’s fifth visit to the state, the last one was in 2003.
"China's position on so-called Arunachal Pradesh is consistent and clear and we firmly oppose the Dalai Lama's visit to the region," AFP quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as telling reporters in Beijing.
"China is greatly concerned over the news. We believe this further exposes the Dalai Lama's nature of anti-China separatism, as is known to all," Ma added.
India's foreign secretary Nirupama Rao last week reaffirmed the right of the Tibetan leader to visit the region, despite previous objections from China.
“We regard and we have always said this clearly and also to China that His Holiness Dalai Lama is a spiritual figure, he is a religious figure, and he does not indulge in political activities on Indian soil," Rao said Friday, according to a report by The Indian Express newspaper.
"He is our guest in India and he is free to visit any part of our country," she added.
India and China traded diplomatic jabs earlier this month over a visit in early October by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the state.
Terming China's recent objection to Singhs's visit to Arunachal Pradesh as "absurd", the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile Samdhong Rinpoche last week said that the Dalai Lama's visit to the north-eastern state next month would be as per schedule.
"How can they dictate things to a sovereign country like India?" Rinpoche said and added, "its not worth taking note of."
Tenzin Takhla, a spokesman of the Dalai Lama, reportedly said that the Nobel laureate will visit Arunachal Pradesh from November 8-15. According to him the Tibetan leader would visit and give sermons at Tawang, Diang, Bungzla and Itanagar.
The Dalai Lama espouses non-violence and says he is only seeking greater rights for Tibetans within the constitutional framework of the People's Republic of China. China, however, routinely vilifies the Dalai Lama and accuses him of being a "splittist" leading a campaign to split Tibet from the rest of the country.