India rejects China’s criticism over PM’s birthday greetings to Dalai Lama

On Thursday, India dismissed China’s criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for wishing the Dalai Lama a happy birthday, claiming that the government has consistently treated the Tibetan spiritual leader as an honoured guest.

The Dalai Lama’s birthday wishes from the prime minister should be viewed in this broader perspective, according to the spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs, Arindam Bagchi.

A day after Modi called the Dalai Lama to wish him a happy 87th birthday, Beijing criticised the prime minister on Thursday, saying India should cease meddling in China’s domestic affairs with Tibet-related matters.

“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.

In response to inquiries on the Chinese response to Modi’s greetings, the spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs commented.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had private meetings on the margins of a G20 foreign ministers’ summit in Bali on the day of the Chinese response.

It is unknown if the subject came up during the negotiations.

At a media briefing in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that “the Indian side should thoroughly realise the anti-China separatist nature of the 14th Dalai Lama.”

According to Zhao, it should uphold its “commitment to China, speak and behave responsibly, and cease utilising Tibet-related concerns to meddle in China’s internal affairs.”

Meenakashi Lekhi, a minister of state for external affairs and culture, and S P Singh Baghel, a minister of state for law, both attended a celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday on Wednesday that was held in Delhi.

Lekhi said the Dalai Lama is someone who talks about India as a significant force in world civilization and that he adopted the nation as his mother in her brief speech at the ceremony.

The 14th Dalai Lama escaped Tibet and arrived in India where he established an exiled government following a failed anti-Chinese insurrection in 1959.

Since 2010, there have not been any formal meetings between representatives of the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama is viewed as a polarising figure by Beijing, which has previously accused him of engaging in “separatist” activities and attempting to partition Tibet.

But according to the “Middle-Way method,” the Tibetan spiritual leader insists that what he really wants is “true autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three ancient regions of Tibet,” not independence.