India: Dalai Lama arrives in Tawang to colourful welcome by hundreds
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India: Dalai Lama arrives in Tawang to colourful welcome by hundreds

THE Dalai Lama has arrived in Tawang, a remote area in northeastern India, to a rousing welcome by hundreds of people there and amid protests by China.

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People sit on a roadside as they wait to welcome Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Tawang, in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, India April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

According to the Times of India, schoolchildren lined the street while others waited with traditional offerings as the Dalai Lama’s convoy drove past on Friday, on his way to the Tawang monastery otherwise known as the Gaden Namgyal Lhatse Gonpha. People waited hours to pay their obeisance to the Tibetan leader who is revered as a “living God”.

People waited hours to pay their obeisance to the Tibetan leader who is revered as a “living God”.

“We started cleaning the road and putting up prayer flags yesterday. We are fortunate that he is travelling by road. We can pay our respects to him in person,” one individual told the Times of India.

Tawang police say the Dalai Lama will stay at the 17th-century Tawang monastery for four days after which he is scheduled to fly to Itanagar by helicopter.

This comes after China on Wednesday denounced India’s decision to host the Dalai Lama on the contested stretch of land on the India-China border, citing that the move would cause serious strain to relations between the two countries.

China has long seen the Dalai Lama as the leader of the “Tibetan independence” however, the spiritual leader is preaching a more muted message.

SEE ALSO: India: Dalai Lama arrives in northeast en route to region disputed by China

The Arunachal Pradesh region of India, where the 81-year-old Buddhist monk is staying is administered by New Delhi but claimed by China as “southern Tibet”. China also labels the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist.

“China expresses firm opposition to this and will lodge stern representations with the Indian side,” foreign ministry spokeswomen Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in the Chinese capital.

Indian officials have dismissed China’s criticism of the Dalai Lama’s second visit to Arunachal Pradesh in eight years, saying he is a spiritual leader who has a devoted following in the region.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has stressed that Tibet is “not seeking independence” from China, but is seeking “meaningful autonomy”. The revered monk also rejected China’s claim that India was using him as a political pawn.

SEE ALSO: Tibet ‘not seeking independence’, says Dalai Lama as China lashes out at India

“I have never been used by India. Wherever I go, I tell people about the Indian philosophy of ahimsa (non-violence), karuna (compassion) and religious harmony,” the Tibetan leader told the India Times.

The spiritual leader also defended the Chinese people and called for restraint. He believes they have been misrepresented by a small group of politicians.

Despite the ongoing dispute, the China-India border has largely remained peaceful recently, particularly since Beijing and New Delhi began border talks last year.

Additional reporting from Reuters.