Indian Decade

The Dalai Lama Thorn?

India has called off a high-level meeting with China, reportedly over demands relating to the Dalai Lama.

Sino-Indian bilateral relations are continuing on their southward trajectory. The latest irritant between the two Asian behemoths is tied to the 15th Special Representatives’ Dialogue, which was scheduled to begin in New Delhi on November 28.

As Nitin Gokhale noted in The Diplomat, India has decided to play hardball with China, refusing to bow to “unacceptable” Chinese conditions for holding the dialogue and postponing the meeting between Chinese Vice Minister Dai Bingguo and Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon indefinitely. The decision marks the first time the Special Representatives-level dialogue between the two nations has been put off.

Officials with India’s External Affairs Ministry on Saturday declined to divulge details of the conditions imposed by the Chinese side. However, reports suggest that Beijing wanted India to scrap a Buddhist conference that is scheduled to be held here in New Delhi around the same time because the Dalai Lama is set to attend the event. China is extremely sensitive over the Dalai Lama issue, something India is fully aware of.

India is said to have flatly rejected the Chinese request, even if it meant sacrificing the dialogue for the time being. Still, New Delhi is determined to try to keep relations with its biggest trading partner on track, and it was revealing that India’s External Affairs Ministry has refrained from issuing any official statement on the controversy.

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Whatever India’s hopes for bilateral ties, though, the latest incident is set to further strain ties already tense over China’s military build-up along their border and a Kashmir policy that includes the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.