A public event for Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is being moved after the Indian government told top officials to stay away from such activities.
India reportedly added that this was a “very sensitive time” for relations with China.
The event will mark the Tibetan spiritual leader’s 60th year in exile in India.
The ceremony was to be held in New Delhi, but will instead take place in Dharamsala, the home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.
A spokesman for the government-in-exile told VOA, "we came to know about the Indian government's circular and we decided we respect the position and we shifted it to Dharamsala."
A difficult time
The Dalai Lama's "Thank You India" public event, on April 1, was the high point of a series of yearlong events planned by the Tibetan exile government. A tree planting ceremony by the Dalai Lama, set for March 31 in New Delhi, has been cancelled.
The Indian government’s move to avoid the events is seen as an effort to not anger China at a time when relations between the two countries are tense.
The Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees live in India. Yet the government has usually been careful to avoid showing official support for him.
The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist. It says he is trying to end Chinese rule in Tibet.
The note advising Indian officials not to attend the Dalai Lama’s event apparently came from the Indian Foreign Secretary, Bijay Gokhale. He went to Beijing last month in what some observers said was a visit to improve relations with China. They said that relations between the two countries hit a low point last July when they were involved in a tense military standoff in the Himalayan Mountains.
Observers see this as a change in the position taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government over the past two years. Last April, Indian officials gave the Dalai Lama permission to visit the sensitive border area of Arunachal Pradesh. China claims partial control of the area. The Chinese government had warned that his visit would damage relations.
Earlier, the Tibetan leader and other Nobel Peace Prize winners were invited to a meeting with the Indian president about children's rights. This invitation also angered China.
Alka Acharya is a professor of Chinese Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He says the latest Indian move is a way for the government to reset relations with China.
"They are reverting back to a much more formally and officially correct position which is that the government will distance itself from activities of the Dalai Lama which may have a political implication," said Acharya.
After news of the Indian decision became public, the foreign ministry said in a statement that the Dalai Lama is "deeply respected by the people of India, and there is no change in that position.” It added that the Dalai Lama will continue to be free to carry out his religious activities in India.
I’m Phil Dierking.
Anjana Pasricha reported this story VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Do you think it awas a good idea for the government to distance itself from the Dalai Lama? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
circular - n. a printed sheet (such as an advertisement) that is given or sent to many people at the same time
implication - n. a possible future effect or result — usually plural
shift - v. to move or to cause (something or someone) to move to a different place, position, etc.
standoff - n. an argument, contest, etc., in which there is no winner
revert - v. to go back or return to