China protests Dalai invite

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Beijing, March 20 (Reuters): China expressed anger today after exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama attended a Buddhist conference supported by the Indian culture ministry, Beijing’s latest spat with Delhi over the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The 81-year-old, who fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, inaugurated the international seminar on Buddhism on March 17 in Rajgir in Bihar’s Nalanda district, about 100km from Patna.

Buddhist monks and scholars from various countries participated in the seminar on Buddhism in the 21st century.

“Recently, India ignored China’s solemn representations and strong opposition and insisted on inviting the 14th Dalai Lama to attend an international Buddhist conference organised by the Indian government,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

The Dalai Lama also shared the stage with Indian government officials and gave a speech, she told a daily news briefing. “China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this,” Hua added.

“We urge the Indian side to clearly recognise the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai clique, abide by its promises on the Tibet issue, respect China’s core interests and avoid further disturbances and harm to China-India relations.”

The Dalai Lama denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for his remote Himalayan homeland.

The Tibetan spiritual leader and Indian culture minister Mahesh Sharma inaugurated the conference on Friday, the Indian culture ministry said in a statement.

In a closing address to the conference yesterday, President Pranab Mukherjee said Buddha’s teachings were especially relevant in a world facing violence.

In December, Mukherjee had hosted the Dalai Lama at his official residence with other Nobel Prize winners, the Tibetan leader’s first public meeting with an Indian head of state in 60 years.

Earlier this month, China had objected to India permitting the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which it regards as southern Tibet.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since the 1950s. It denies any repression in Tibet and says its rule has brought development to a once backward and poverty-stricken region.

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