Monday, October 26, 2009

PM tells off Wen, says Dalai free to travel in India

NEW DELHI: During a dinner conversation with Wen Jiabao, PM Manmohan Singh did what US President Barack Obama hesitates to do: he told the Chinese premier that Dalai Lama was "an honoured guest in India and a respected religious leader" and was free to travel anywhere in the country. 

Briefing journalists after the East Asia summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, Singh said, "I explained to Premier Wen that Dalai Lama is our honoured guest and he is a religious leader... (But) we do not allow Tibetan refugees to indulge in political activities and proof of that is that we took resolute action against some Tibetans during Olympics (torch relay) last year following reports that some refugees might create problems." 

The Singh-Wen meeting is important in view of the recent heated temperatures between India and China on everything from the boundary to visas and rivers. India sent a couple of important messages to China. First, that India's hosting of Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees did not amount to supporting any separatist movement against China; second, that India would continue to exercise control over its internal affairs, and third, that the responsibility for maintaining peace and tranquility in Sino-Indian relations rested in both Beijing and New Delhi. China has already demarched India on the Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh. 

The PM said he had a frank discussion with Wen on all issues, though the MEA tried to filter the conversation for journalists, by saying that the Dalai Lama issue had not figured in the talks. 

"I had a frank and constructive exchange of views with Premier Wen," the PM said. "We discussed all these issues and agreed that the existing mechanism of bilateral cooperation should be used to resolve all issues in the spirit of strategic and cooperative partnership," he added. 

Describing the boundary dispute as a "complex" issue, which "cannot be wished away", Singh said, "Pending the resolution of the boundary question, both countries have an obligation to maintain peace and tranquility along the border." 

Singh has a particular interest in the rivers issue with China, and sources said he never wasted an opportunity to tell the Chinese that unilateral decision on diversion of Brahmaputra waters would not be helpful. 

Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi will meet S M Krishna in Bangalore on Tuesday for the Russia-India-China trilateral meeting and its expected that a number of these issues will be raised again. The PM said the meeting would have an opportunity to "discuss all issues which have a bearing on our relationship".

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