China says Dalai Lama border visit would damage India ties

Tibetan monks carry a portrait of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and play traditional instruments during a special prayer ceremony on the third day of the Tibetan New Year celebrations in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, March 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

BEIJING — China is warning of "severe damage" to relations with India and increased regional instability if exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama proceeds with a visit to a disputed area along their still-unsettled border.

Beijing has expressed its concerns to New Delhi on numerous occasions and urged India to "avoid offering a state for the Dalai Lama to carry out anti-China separatist activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing Friday.

"The invitation to the Dalai Lama by the Indian side to the contested area between China and India will inflict severe damage on the China-India relationship and peace and stability in the China-India border area," Geng said.

The highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism was to visit Arunachal Pradesh in coming weeks. China claims the partly ethnically Tibetan Himalayan state as its own territory and the frontier between the two nuclear-armed Asian giants remains tense more than 50 years after they fought a brief but bloody border war high in the peaks.

China claims about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) in Arunachal Pradesh, referred to informally by some Chinese as "Southern Tibet." India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau.

More than a dozen rounds of talks have failed to make substantial progress on the dispute, although there have been relatively few confrontations in recent years.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after a failed anti-Chinese uprising in 1959. He last visited Arunachal Pradesh in 2009 and while China protested the trip, there was no major impact on relations with India.

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