By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, May 6: The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that the reportedly ‘anti-Beijing congregation’ of Chinese and Uyghur activists did not take place in the picturesque town, and that they were in Dharamshala only to meet the Tibetan Spiritual Leader.
“There was no conference. Certain individuals had come to India to meet Dalai Lama. As you are aware, the Dalai Lama is a respected spiritual leader and there is absolutely no bar on foreigners coming to India to have a religious or spiritual audience with him,” said the External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
“The conference was certainly held,” Jayadeva Ranade, former senior official and President of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy told the Hindu.
The meeting “Strengthening Our Alliance to Advance the Peoples’ Dream: Freedom, Justice, Equity and Peace” organized by US based democracy group ‘Initiatives for China’ along with few Tibetan NGOs was held behind closed doors.
Reportedly, at least nine activists including a few Chinese dissidents were barred from traveling to India, according to Quartz India news portal. RFA on April 27 reported that five other delegates from the World Uyghur Congress including President Rebiya Kadeer were also refused visa to travel to India for the much-scrutinized event.
The cancellations of Dolkun Isa’s visa, denying former Tiananmen activist Lu Jinguh permission to board her flight to India and denying Hong Kong-based activist Ra Wongto to attend the event were seen as India coming under pressure from China.
Isa and the other activists were part of the delegation scheduled to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader. However, India’s U-turn drew much criticism from various sections, including former Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar, who accused the Center of ‘shifting position’ regarding the visas because it was ‘embarrassed’, after wanting to allow the conference initially after China’s actions at the UNSC on Masood Azhar.