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China’s protest at Indian MPs’ presence at the launch of their parliamentary forum for Tibet rebuffed

(TibetanReview.net, Dec31’21) – Rather than taking it up with the government of India, as per protocol, China has written directly to a group of members of Indian parliament, criticizing their Dec 22 presence at a dinner reception hosted in New Delhi by the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. The occasion was the relaunch of the All-Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet.

At least six MPs cutting across party lines had attended the Dec 22 event. They included Union MoS for Entrepreneurship, Skill Development, Electronics & Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar, BJP’s Maneka Gandhi and K C Ramamurthy, Congress MPs Jairam Ramesh and Manish Tewari, and BJD’s Sujeet Kumar. Also present was the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel.

China’s unusually worded letter, sent Dec 30 by the Political Counsellor at its Embassy, is seen by New Delhi as an undiplomatic move, as foreign diplomats writing to MPs in India in this manner has not happened in the recent past, noted the indianexpress.com Dec 31.

BJD’s Sujeet Kumar, who is the convener of the Forum, has reacted sharply to the letter sent by the embassy’s Political Counsellor. “Who is the Political Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy to write to a Member of Parliament of India, the largest democracy? How dare you send letters to Indian MPs? If anything, you can raise your protest through official channels. I think the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) should take a stand,” the indianexpress.com Dec 31 quoted him as saying.

The report quoted the letter from Political Counsellor Zhou Yongsheng as saying: “I have noticed that you have attended an activity held by the so-called “All-Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet” and interacted with some members of the so called “Tibetan Parliament in Exile”. I would like to express our concern on that.”

Calling the ‘Tibetan Government in-exile’ an “out-and-out separatist political group” and “an illegal organization” and noting India’s recognition of Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the territory of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou has said: “China firmly opposes any anti-China separatist activities conducted by ‘Tibetan independence’ forces in any capacity or name in any country and opposes any forms of contact by officials of any country with them.”

The report also quoted BJD’s Kumar as saying: “Personally speaking, I don’t consider Tibet to be a part of China. That is separate because the Government of India’s official policy is different. But this Parliamentary forum on Tibet is to support the cause of Tibetan cultural and religious beliefs, and is between the people of India and the Tibetan government-in-exile. One should not read too much politics into it.”

It also quoted senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh as saying: “When I was asked to speak (at the event), I said I never go to any evening functions but I have made an exception because of my profound admiration for the Buddha, deep respect for the Dalai Lama and in gratitude for the role Tibetan sources have played in the rediscovery of India’s Buddhist heritage.”

Earlier, in 2018, then Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had sent an official note dated Feb 22 to the Cabinet Secretary at the time, PK Sinha, advising “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” of the Centre and states to stay away from a series of Thank You India events organized by the exile Tibetan leadership, citing “very sensitive times” in bilateral relations on India and China. Sinha issued a directive two days later, the report noted.

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