Dalai Lama's presence hurts China ties - India poll

NEW DELHI Fri Apr 4, 2008 8:13pm IST

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama leaves after a prayer meeting for those who lost their lives during China's crackdown on protests in Tibet, at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in Rajghat, New Delhi, March 29, 2008. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama leaves after a prayer meeting for those who lost their lives during China's crackdown on protests in Tibet, at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in Rajghat, New Delhi, March 29, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has hosted the Dalai Lama since he fled Tibet half a century ago, but a large majority of Indians surveyed by a news magazine feel his presence has harmed the country's ties with China.

Outlook news magazine said it had polled 547 educated, well-off Indians in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, asking them: "Is Dalai Lama a problem for India?"

While 71 percent of respondents said hosting the Tibetan leader had adversely impacted India-China relations, almost half thought Beijing could retaliate by giving sanctuary to Indian militants.

A slew of anti-China protests in India since last month's unrest in Tibet has embarrassed New Delhi, which recognises Tibet as an integral part of China but which offered the Dalai Lama a refuge after he fled Lhasa in 1959.

Dharamsala in the north Indian hills now houses the Tibetan government-in-exile and was at the centre of the recent protests.

The survey showed 47 percent of respondents endorsed India's diplomatic position of not angering China with open support for the Dalai Lama, yet 64 percent said they didn't want the government to stop Tibetans from protesting against Beijing.

"People have a soft corner for the Dalai Lama but they don't want India to take an extreme stand, like say, sending him back or stopping Tibetans from demanding back their country," Prem Chand Palety, CEO of Cfore, the pollsters, told Reuters.

After a small group of Tibetan protesters scaled the wall of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi last month, India urged the Dalai Lama not to indulge in political activities that hurt its ties with China.

China says the Tibetan leader orchestrated last month's unrest in Tibet, a charge the Dalai Lama has strongly denied.

The survey showed 70 percent of Indians agreed with him.

(For in depth coverage of the Tibet unrest, click here )

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