Dekyi Lingka, the erstwhile Indian Mission in Lhasa. (Photo courtesy/Claude Arpi)
DHARAMSHALA, April 1: China has turned down India’s request to allow its third consulate in the restive Tibetan capital Lhasa, and instead agreed on Chengdu, capital of the well industrialized province, Sichuan.
In exchange, India has allowed China to set up its third consulate in Chennai. China being India's largest trade partner in goods, Indian officials say that a consulate in Tibet would help bilateral trade and pilgrimage, such as the Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
India will open its third Consulate in China in the city of Chengdu after its proposal to re-establish a mission in the sensitive Tibetan capital of Lhasa did not get a favourable response. Indian consulate in Lhasa was closed down after the brief war between the two countries in 1962.
The agreement to set up their consulates in Chengdu and Chennai was reached after both sides agreed to improve diplomatic relations compounded by growing trade and investments.
In addition to its Embassy in Beijing, India currently has Consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou. China has its Consul General missions in Mumbai and Kolkata apart from its Embassy in New Delhi. The official announcement to this effect will be made by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Beijing in May.
China has also agreed to open a new land route for Indian pilgrims to travel to the holy Kailash -Mansarovar through Nathu La Pass in Sikkim.
Nepal is the only country to have a Consulate in Lhasa. The United States, in 2008 and 2011, pushed for setting up a Consulate in Lhasa but did not succeed.
In July 2011, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee directed the US Secretary of State to forbid additional Chinese consulates in the United States until China allows a US consulate in Lhasa.
The US House of Representatives in 2009 had passed a bill authorizing the establishment of a US Consulate in Tibet and also allowing the creation of a "Tibet Section" in the US embassy in Beijing.
The House panel, in its Foreign Relations Authorization Act 2012, said that "The Secretary shall seek to establish a United States consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, to provide services to United States citizens traveling in Tibet and to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet, including Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan provinces and, until such consulate is established, shall not permit the establishment in the United States of any additional consulate of the People’s Republic of China".
The United States currently has five consulates in Mainland China, in addition to its embassy in Beijing. They are in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.
As well as its embassy in Washington and U.N. mission in New York, China has five consulates in the United States in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston.