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India's honoured guest

India's honoured guest

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 28, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/211724/India's-honoured-guest.html

Arunachal awaits Dalai Lama's visit

In clearing the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh on November 8, the Government of India has acted correctly and wisely. The spiritual leader is scheduled to travel to the Tawang Monastery - one of the most revered seats of Tibetan Buddhism - and also inaugurate a super-speciality hospital that will serve the people of India's easternmost State. In recent weeks the Dalai Lama's visit had become the subject of great controversy, with the Chinese authorities resorting to wild and objectionable rhetoric, making menacing noises and insisting that almost all of Arunachal Pradesh was actually China's territory by virtue of being part of the so-called 'Southern Tibet'. Having first annexed Tibet and offered only oppression and dubious historical evidence as clinching arguments, the Communist autocracy in China now says it also wants Arunachal Pradesh as a culturally contiguous region of a sacred habitat it is in occupation of. This is no ordinary millenarian fantasy and sits uneasily with the idea of a rational and coldly calculating regime in Beijing. It is obvious that China sees Arunachal Pradesh as an issue it can use to put India in its place. By claiming Tawang, allegedly on behalf of the people of Tibet, it is actually engaged in a game of one-upmanship with the Dalai Lama. The respected religious leader is absolutely comfortable with Tawang being a repository of Buddhist faith, the birthplace of a previous Dalai Lama, and yet part of a State that is integral to the Union of India. He has refused to entertain the idea that Arunachal Pradesh is somehow disputed territory. His very presence in the State will make Chinese claims on Tawang appear hollow, just as his credibility and Gandhian stature render Beijing's half-century occupation of Lhasa almost immoral. Obviously, despite China's prodigious economic achievements and statistical tabulation of its "composite national power", the fact is Beijing is deeply insecure and has monumental chips on its shoulder.

Dealing with such a neighbour calls for not just diplomatic skills but profound mastery of a number of other fields, from chess to clinical psychology. It is doubtful whether India has time for all of this. It can't spend its hours attempting to psychoanalyse the rulers of China, What it can and must do, however, is to put its foot down when Indian identity itself is questioned and even threatened. The Dalai Lama has his individual plans for the resolution of the Chinese-Tibetan question. India has its own perceptions as well, and these may or may not match those of the world's best known Buddhist monk. However, two things are clear. First, the Dalai Lama is an honoured guest of India and completely free to go to any part of the country that he feels like. Second, India cannot be bullied into taking a position on the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan political struggle merely because a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry gets carried away with obnoxious verbosity.

That is why the Union Government's decision to clarify matters and give permission to the Dalai Lama - being a foreign citizen and a diplomatic personage he needs official clearance - to visit a cherished and crucial border State is just so welcome. The Chinese are free to launch into another war or words, try and smuggle in more border patrols, buy paint for inscribing more boulders. India shall not be moved.

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