Modi, Blinken draw China ire for greeting Dalai Lama on birthday

China on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for greeting the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on his 87th birthday, saying India should stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

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 the birthday at Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama lives in exile.

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

It should abide by its “commitment to China, speak and act prudently and stop using Tibet related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Zhao said.

He 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, Zhao said, “Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs, which brooks no foreign interference. China is firmly against any engagement by any country with the 14th Dalai Lama”.

He said the Dalai Lama is a political exile disguised as a religious figure who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities.

“We urge the US side to have full understanding of the important and sensitive nature of the Tibet related issues, respect China’s core interests, have a clear understanding of the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai group and abide by its commitment on Tibet related issues, stop engaging with Dalai Lama in any form and stop sending any wrong signal to the outside world,” he said.

He said over the long term, Tibet has enjoyed flourishing economic development, social harmony, stability and the cultural traditions in Tibetan have been well protected.

People from various ethnic backgrounds in Tibet have the religious freedom and free right to use and develop their own region and spoken language.

“The international community bears witness to this,” he said.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities, however, 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”.

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