Wary of China, Russia says no to Dalai visit

New Delhi, India - In yet another manifestation of China’s might, Russian diplomats have met their Chinese counterparts in Delhi to assure Beijing that Moscow won’t allowthe Dalai Lama to visit Russia "under the present circumstances". Stating that the spiritual leader’s activities had acquired a political tinge, Russian officials said their advice to the Dalai Lama was to improve relations with China and refrain from political activities.

The Russians were pushed into damage-control mode after Beijing was said to have been offended by an alleged remark by Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin that Russia may issue a visa to Dalai Lama. The Chinese, however, had not registered any official protest. The Russian embassy denied that any such remark had been made by the ambassador.

The Russians have attributed the confusion to a "mistake" in the transcript of an interview which Kadakin gave to an agency recently, on a visit to Himachal Pradesh. "The Russian foreign minister has made it clear that Russia treasures strategic partnership with China and has no intention of damaging it. For this reason, Russia’s advice for the Dalai Lama is to improve relations with Beijing and stay away from politics," said a Russian embassy official in Delhi.

"If he chooses to pay a pastoral [religious] visit, there should be no problem. But he will have to look differently on the purpose of his visit first. For now, a visit by the Dalai Lama or a visa for him is out of the question," he added.

According to the Russian embassy, its diplomats have met the Chinese embassy councillor in Delhi to brief him on the Russian position and provide him with the authentic text of Kadakin’s interview.

The Dalai Lama has visited Russia several times, the last one being in 2004, to the traditionally Buddhist dominated areas of Kalmykia near the Caspian Sea. However, with Moscow being excessively keen on building good relations with Beijing, it has since refused to issue visa to the Tibetan leader.

Only last month, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Dalai Lama for his "provocative" stand.