CHA-AM, Thailand – Tibet's exiled Dalai Lama is an "honored guest" in India and will not be barred from visiting a disputed border area despite China's strong protests, India's prime minister said Sunday after talks with the Chinese premier.
However, the two Asian giants have agreed not to let border tensions erupt into violence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a regional summit in Thailand.
Beijing has strongly opposed a planned visit by the Dalai Lama next month to India's northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is at the heart of a long-running border dispute with China.
China's protests stem from two hot-button issues. Beijing opposes most activities of the Dalai Lama, whom it accuses of advocating independence from Chinese rule for his native Tibet.
Also, China considers the Arunachal Pradesh area part of its own territory, not India's. Beijing also protested a visit the Singh made to the same region recently.
The Indian and Chinese leaders met Sunday on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Thailand, and Singh said
"I explained to Premier Wen that the Dalai Lama is our honored guest. He is a religious leader," Singh told reporters, adding, "We do not allow Tibetan refugees to indulge in political activities."
China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet, but the Nobel Peace Prize laureate says he only wants autonomy for the Himalayan region to practice its Buddhist culture.
He has lived in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala since fleeing Tibet following a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Ties between India and China have improved vastly since a brief border war in the region in 1962, but they remain divided over territorial claims that contributed to the conflict.
In recent years, the two sides have held 13 rounds of talks on settling their border dispute but have made little progress.
"The premier (Wen) and I reaffirmed the need to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border pending a resolution of the boundary question," Singh told reporters Sunday.
He spoke on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, which brings the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations together with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.