China criticises PM Modi, US secretary of state for greeting Dalai Lama on his birthday

BEIJING, 7 Jul: China on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for greeting the Dalai Lama on his 87th birthday, saying that India has to fully understand the “separatist nature” of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and it should stop using Tibet-related issues to “interfere” in China’s internal affairs.

Prime Minister Modi greeted the Dalai Lama over the phone as he turned 87 on Wednesday.

“Conveyed 87th birthday greetings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the phone earlier today. We pray for his long life and good health,” Modi tweeted on Wednesday.

The prime minister wished him on his birthday last year as well.

The Dalai Lama’s supporters celebrated his 87th birthday at Dharamshala, where he has lived since fleeing from his Himalayan homeland in 1959.

Reacting to a question on Modi’s greetings, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that “the Indian side also needs to fully understand the anti-China and separatist nature of the 14th Dalai Lama.”

“It needs to abide by its commitments to China on Tibet-related issues, act and speak with prudence and stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Lijian said in response to a question from China’s state-run media.

“Tibet-related affairs are China’s internal affairs and brook no interference by any external forces. China firmly opposes all forms of contact between foreign officials and the Dalai Lama,” he said.

In New Delhi, India rejected China’s criticism over Prime Minister Modi’s birthday greetings

to the Dalai Lama, asserting that it is a consistent policy of the government to treat the Tibetan spiritual leader as an honoured guest.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the birthday greetings by the prime minister to the Dalai Lama should be seen in this overall context.

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

“His Holiness is accorded all due courtesies and freedom to conduct his religious and spiritual activities in India. His birthday is celebrated by many of his followers in India and abroad,” Bagchi said.

“The birthday greetings by the prime minister to his holiness on his 87th birthday should be seen in this overall context,” he said, noting that Modi greeted him last year as well.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities. But the Tibetan spiritual leader insists 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.”

The Chinese reaction came on a day when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bali on the sidelines of a conclave of G20 foreign ministers’ meeting.

It is not known whether the issue figured in their talks.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian also lashed out at US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for greeting the Dalai Lama.

In his greetings, Blinken said, “His holiness brings light to his fellow Tibetans and so many around the world by promoting peace, encouraging inter-faith harmony, and advocating for the preservation of Tibetan language and culture.

“I admire his holiness’s ongoing commitment to non-violence to resolve the grievances of the Tibetan community. I am also grateful for his dedication and service to humanity,” Blinken said in his message posted on the US state department website.

“The United States will continue to support his holiness’s and the Tibetan community’s efforts to preserve Tibet’s distinct linguistic, religious, and cultural traditions, including the ability to freely choose their religious leaders,” he said.

Criticising Blinken’s greetings to the Tibetan Buddhist leader, Lijian said the 14th Dalai Lama is a “political exile disguised as a religious figure” who has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities and attempted to split Tibet from China.

“We urge the US side to fully understand the importance and highly sensitive nature of Tibet-related issues, seriously respect the core interests of China, understand the anti-China and separatist nature of the Dalai clique, abide by US commitments on Tibet-related issues, refrain from all forms of contact with Dalai and stop sending wrong signals to the world,” Lijian said.

He claimed that Tibet has long witnessed booming economic development with social harmony and stability and cultural traditions protected and promoted.

“People of all ethnic groups in Tibet enjoy the freedom of religious belief, and the freedom to use and develop their ethnic languages. Other rights and freedoms are also fully protected,” Lijian said. (PTI)