India allows Dalai Lama’s b’day fest on disputed border with China in Ladakh


New Delhi allowed Lobsang Sangay, the “Sikyong” (president) of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, to travel to Ladakh on Wednesday and perform rituals on the shore of the Pang Gong Lake, which is located on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or the de-facto border between India and China. Sangay and other Tibetan Buddist monks performed rituals on the lakeside praying for long life of Dalai Lama on the eve of his birthday.

India’s decision to allow the celebration of Dalai Lama’s birthday just on its disputed boundary with China came as the face-off between the soldiers of the two nations in western Bhutan continued on its 19th day.

New Delhi had facilitated a visit by Dalai Lama, himself, to Tawang near India-China LAC in Arunachal Pradesh last April – a move that had raised hackles in Beijing.

Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans and the global icon of the struggle against the occupation of Tibet by China, turned 82 on Thursday. He has been living in India ever since he had fled from Tibet to escape from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1959.

The TGIE (officially known as Central Tibetan Administration), which is based in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, posted on its website a report and the pictures of Sangay on the bank of the Pang Gong Lake in Ladakh and performing rituals on the eve of Dalai Lama’s birthday.

The LAC passes through the Pang Gong Lake, although China and India have differences on the alignment of the imaginary line. India accuses China of illegally occupying a section of the lake, which has Tibet on its eastern end. The lake witnessed the conflict between soldiers of India and China during the 1962 war. It still remains a sensitive point on the disputed boundary between the two nations. The Chinese PLA personnel on boats often cross the LAC and intrude into territory claimed by India.

Beijing accuses Dalai Lama of pursuing a separatist agenda and has also been very sensitive about his or any senior TGIE official’s visits to Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh or any other place close to the disputed Sino-India boundary. Beijing does not recognise Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India and claims over 83500 sq. kms of areas in the state to be part of Tibet and, hence, of the territory of China. India claims that China is illegally occupying approximately 38,000 sq. kms of areas in Ladakh and nearby areas in Jammu and Kashmir.

Beijing had angrily reacted to Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April and even warned New Delhi that it would take “necessary measures to defend its territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests” in response. Sources in New Delhi are of the view that Chinese PLA’s recent move to build a road in Doklam Plateau near India-China-Bhutan tri-junction boundary point and aggressiveness along China-India boundary in Sikkim Section was, in fact, a response to Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

The Indian Army soldiers from nearby Doka La post went to Doklam Plateau on June 18 and stopped the Chinese PLA soldiers, who had started constructing the road despite protests by Royal Bhutanese Army troops. This resulted in a face-off, which has since been continuing and further strained the ties between India and China. Thimphu asked Beijing to stop construction of the road as the area was a matter of dispute between China and Bhutan. New Delhi too asked Beijing to withdraw troops and not to make attempts to change the status quo at the tri-junction point till the territorial disputes are settled. Beijing, on the other hand, claimed that Doklam Plateau belonged to China and Bhutan had no claim on it. It also asked India to withdraw troops from the plateau and let the PLA soldiers build the road China had sovereign right on the piece of land.

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