China said it expressed grave concern to India about a visit by the Dalai Lama to a state in the country’s northeast at the heart of a long-running border dispute, saying it showed an anti-China bias.
Tibet’s spiritual leader is scheduled to visit a monastery in Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday on what he has said is a spiritual, and not political, trip.
“We have expressed our grave concerns. We believe that this once again exposes the nature of the Dalai Lama as anti-China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.
“We firmly oppose the visits of the Dalai Lama to the eastern border regions … this is a separatist action,” he said.
Ma said what he called the Dalai Lama’s attempts to damage relations between China and India will not succeed.
On a trip to Tokyo late last month, the Dalai Lama said the Chinese government reads too much political meaning into his frequent travels abroad.
“The Chinese government politicizes too much wherever I go. Where I go is not political,” he said. Despite strong criticism from China, the Buddhist leader, who lives in exile in India, recently visited Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Ties between India and China have improved vastly since a brief border war in 1962, but they remain divided over territorial claims dating back to the conflict. In recent years, the two have held 13 rounds of talks on settling their border dispute but have made little progress.
Arunachal Pradesh is at the center of the dispute. China has never recognized a British colonial-era border known as the McMahon Line that designated the northeastern Arunachal Pradesh region as part of India. China also occupies a chunk of territory in Kashmir that India regards as its own.
The Dalai Lama’s planned trip comes as the countries are involved in a dispute over visas, with Indian media saying China has started giving separate paper visas instead of stamping passports for Indians from Kashmir, a region also claimed by Beijing’s ally, Pakistan.
China says India has launched a visa policy that does not allow many Chinese laborers and workers to stay in India on a business visa, instead requiring them to go through a longer process of getting a work visa.
Ma denied any change to visas given to Kashmir residents, saying China’s visa policy was consistent. He called on India to facilitate work visas to India, saying China has constructed large infrastructure projects there that required the importing of Chinese technicians.
“China has expressed our concerns to the Indian side,” he said.
Beijing opposes most activities of the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of advocating independence from Chinese rule for his native Tibet.
Tensions remain in Tibet, where in March 2008 Tibetans attacked Chinese migrants and shops in the regional capital, Lhasa, and torched parts of the city’s commercial district in deadly anti-government riots.