China said Tuesday it was “firmly opposed” to a planned visit by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian region at the centre of a border dispute with China.
“China’s position on so-called Arunachal Pradesh is consistent and clear and we firmly oppose the Dalai Lama’s visit to the region,” foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters.
“China is greatly concerned over the news. We believe this further exposes the Dalai Lama’s nature of anti-China separatism, as is known to all,” Ma added.
India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (14,700 square miles) of its Himalayan territory, while Beijing claims all of Arunachal Pradesh, which covers 90,000 square kilometres.
“The Dalai Lama is a religious figure and he does not indulge in political activities,” Rao was quoted saying on Friday by The Indian Express newspaper.
“He is our guest in India and he is free to visit any part of our country.”
The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after China crushed an anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet, is denounced by Beijing as a “splittist” despite his calls for autonomy rather than full independence for his homeland.
India and China have traded warnings over their disputed border areas in recent weeks, but Ma said on Tuesday that ties remained good.
“At present, China-India relations have maintained a good momentum of growth, as evidenced by frequent contact… as well as close coordination and collaboration in major international and regional issues,” he said.