India has consistent policy to treat Dalai Lama as an honoured guest: MEA

NEW DELHI: India has a consistent policy of treating the Dalai Lama as a respected religious leader and an honoured guest in the country, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

The assertion, in response to a question, came two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up the Tibetan spiritual leader and greeted him on his 86th birthday.

“It is the consistent policy of the government of India to treat his holiness the Dalai Lama as an honoured guest in India and as a respected religious leader who enjoys a large following in India,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing.

“His holiness’s birthday is celebrated by many of his followers in India and abroad,” he added.

Bagchi was replying to a question on the Indian government wishing the Dalai Lama on his birthday.

Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday said on Twitter that he spoke to the Tibetan spiritual leader and greeted him on his birthday in what was seen in some quarters as a subtle message to China amid strained ties between India and that country over the border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Several union ministers including Nitin Gadkari, Hardeep Singh Puri and Dharmendra Pradhan as well as chief ministers Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi) and Prem Singh Tamang (Sikkim) were among those who also tweeted to convey their greetings to the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama while responding to the birthday greetings said in a virtual address he has taken “full advantage” of India’s freedom and religious harmony and is committed to reviving ancient Indian knowledge.

The Tibetan leader also said he is committed to non-violence and compassion “until my death”.

The 14th Dalai Lama has made India his home since fleeing China in 1959.

The Chinese government officials and the Dalai Lama or his representatives have not met in formal negotiations since 2010.

Beijing has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him as a divisive figure.

However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but “genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet” under the “Middle-Way approach”.