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Xi Jinping lands in India amid scattered Tibetan protests

  • Published at 01:21 am October 12th, 2019
In this handout photograph taken and released by Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on October 11, 2019, China's President Xi Jinping (R) waves to performers as he arrives in Chennai, to attend a summit with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram from October 11 to 12 in Tamil Nadu state AFP

China and its all-weather ally Pakistan have been angered by India's decision two months ago to revoke the special status of the part of Kashmir it controls, which was accompanied by a crackdown on dissent

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in southern India yesterday for talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to try to halt a slide in ties over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir amid scattered anti-China protests from Tibetan groups.

China and its all-weather ally Pakistan have been angered by India's decision two months ago to revoke the special status of the part of Kashmir it controls, which was accompanied by a crackdown on dissent.

India says it is an internal matter aimed at developing the region and there was no room for a third country to be involved, after Xi said he was watching the situation closely and assured Pakistan of Chinese support.

In a move to tighten its grip on Jammu and Kashmir, parts of which are claimed by Pakistan and China, India, in early August, dropped a constitutional provision that allowed the country's only Muslim-majority state to make its own laws.

Xi arrived yesterday in the southern city of Chennai where Modi was to take him on a tour of the nearby Shore Temple dating back to the seventh and eighth centuries when regional kingdoms had direct ties with Chinese provinces.

Ahead of his arrival, police detained the chief of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Gonpo Dhondup, and 11 Tibetan students in several locations, including at the airport and a highway leading to the summit venue.

"We want freedom," shouted Dhondup, as he was wrestled away by six policemen in a video shared by the Tibetan Youth Congress. He was pushed into an autorickshaw and taken away by police.

Two Tibetan activists, both women, staged a protest inside Chennai airport, holding a banner that read: "Xi Jinping Stop Occupation in Tibet - Free Tibet."

China sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. China brands him a dangerous reactionary who seeks to split off nearly a quarter of the Chinese land mass.

The 1989 Nobel Peace laureate denies the charge and says he seeks greater rights for Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama and the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile have been based in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala for decades, but India has been careful not to let Tibetans embarrass visiting Chinese leaders.

Territorial dispute

Indian officials say they expect China to respect its core concerns in the same way, including over the issue of Kashmir.

Modi and Xi will be aiming to move forward on a set of confidence-building measures during the informal summit in Mamallapuram, a short distance from Chennai, an Indian source briefed on the discussions said.

India and China share a 3,500 km (2,200 mile) border, over which they went to war in 1962. Its course remains unresolved despite more than 20 rounds of talks.

The border has been largely peaceful, but there have been occasional stand-offs between soldiers from the two Asian giants. The measures on the table include more border trade, tourism and even joint military patrols to boost trust, said the source.

"Priority will be given to enhancing confidence-building measures and people-to-people exchanges," a second government source said.