Despite objections by China, India will host the Dalai Lama in a disputed region on the China-India border in the coming weeks. On Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned India of the seriousness of the Dalai issue and the sensitivity of the boundary question, and urged it to refrain from actions that would further complicate the question. Responding to Geng's remarks, Indian media outlet the Daily News & Analysis quoted Indian official sources as saying that the "Tibetan spiritual leader" was on his way to India for a religious trip and New Delhi was surprised at Beijing's new-found "sensitivities" as the Dalai Lama has undertaken numerous such visits earlier.
These Indian officials apparently didn't realize, or deliberately ignored, the severe consequences the Dalai Lama's trip would bring. The 14th Dalai Lama is by no means a spiritual leader but a Tibetan separatist. Allowing the Dalai Lama to visit the disputed area will inevitably trigger confrontation, undermine the stability of the region and sour Sino-Indian relations.
For a long time, some Indians have considered the Dalai Lama as a strategic asset. They believe that India could gain many benefits by using the Dalai issue as leverage. For instance, making an issue of the Dalai Lama could serve as a diplomatic tool to deal with China's growing economic and political influence in South Asia. However, they overestimate the political value of the Dalai Lama and his group while miscalculating China's determination to safeguard its core interests.
An increasing number of Western leaders have shut the door on the Dalai Lama in recent years after realizing the Dalai card is ineffective. In the wake of a string of countermeasures by China, Mongolia's government pledged to extend no more invitations to the Dalai Lama in late December. Against such a backdrop and at a time when a China-India strategic dialogue was just held to improve bilateral relations, the decision to receive the Dalai Lama in the disputed region is unwise. Leveraging the Dalai Lama issue to undermine Beijing's core interests risks dragging the two countries into a state of hostility.
The good momentum for the bilateral relationship in recent years shouldn't be disrupted. In future, there is great potential for the two countries to tap into cooperation. As the two biggest emerging economies, they have vast common interests on establishing a new global financial order, tackling climate change and other major issues. Now China and India have come to a critical period to further upgrade bilateral ties.