New Delhi: With the Chinese objecting to the Dalai Lama's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week, India on Saturday made it clear that the Tibetan leader was 'an honoured guest' in the country and was seen as a spiritual leader by millions of Indians.
'The Indian position has been stated many times. It is unequivocal and categorical. The Dalai Lama is an honoured guest in India, is a spiritual leader and is held as such by millions of Indians,' External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters.
'We do not encourage anyone to get into political activities which will concern the relationship between the two countries,' he said while alluding to the pledge given by India to China not to let the Dalai Lama or his followers indulge in political activities on Indian soil.
'The Tibetan Autonomous Region is part of the Chinese republic. I think that should bring down the curtain on any controversy.'
The Dalai Lama had called on Manmohan Singh Aug 11, the first meeting between the two since the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) returned to power over a year ago.
The Chinese government has reportedly conveyed its objection over the meeting through diplomatic channels.
The Dalai Lama heads a Tibetan government-in-exile that is based in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala. He fled to India in 1959 after an abortive anti-Communist uprising in his homeland.
The Tibetan government-in-exile is not recognised by any country in the world.
Reacting to China's objections, the Dalai Lama's representative in Delhi, Tempa Tsering, said the Tibetan spiritual leader made a courtesy call on Manmohan Singh to thank him for the hospitality shown in the last five decades.
He added that there was nothing unusual about the meeting.
'He has been living in India for the past 50 years. There was nothing special about the meeting. He thanked the prime minister for the good care India has taken of him during this period,' Tsering told IANS.
He, however, pointed out that the meeting was part of the Dalai Lama's regular interaction with Indian leaders.
'What's so unusual about the meeting? He keeps meeting Indian leaders,' Tsering said.
'He (the Dalai Lama) met Vice President Hamid Ansari a year ago. Foreign secretaries have visited Dharamsala to meet Dalai Lama,' he said.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao met the Dalai Lama and his senior aides last month.
Beijing, which regards the Dalai Lama as a 'splittist', has objected to the meeting, sources said.
Tsering said there was nothing unusual in China's criticism. 'The moment he opens his mouth, they start criticising him,' he said.
We call him Kundun
China had vigorously opposed the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, over which Beijing claims sovereignty, in November last year and protested Manmohan Singh's visit to the state last October.
Last year, Manmohan Singh had defended the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal saying he was India's 'honoured guest' and has right to visit any part of the country.