New Delhi, April 4: Even as China protested ahead of the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India on Tuesday said that the Tibetan spiritual leader has visited the state six times earlier and no "additional colour" should be given to his visit starting from April 5.
"The government has clearly stated on several occasions that HHDL (His Highness Dalai Lama) is a revered religious leader, who is deeply respected as such by the Indian people," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
"No additional colour should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India," it said.
"The government, therefore, urges that no artificial controversy should be created around his present visit to Arunachal Pradesh."
China in March said ties with India would be hit if New Delhi allowed the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by Beijing.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Beijing was concerned over India permitting the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit the northeastern state of India.
Geng said China was strictly opposed to the impending visit by the Dalai Lama.
"China is strongly opposed to the Dalai Lama visiting disputed areas," he told a regular press briefing.
Geng said India knew the sensitivity of the border issue between both countries and allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh would damage its ties with China.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own, calling it South Tibet. Besides, it accuses the Dalai Lama of separatist activities in Tibet.
Citing the Dalai Lama's website, the External Affairs Ministry statement said that the spiritual leader has visited the northeast Indian state six times earlier - in 1983; in 1996; in 1997; twice in 2003; and again in 2009.
According to the Dalai Lama's office, from April 5 to 7 he will give teachings at Yiga Choezin in Tawang. On April 10, he will give teachings at Thupsung Dhargyeling Monastery in Dirang.
A day later, the Dalai Lama will be at the Buddha Park in Bomdila and on April 12 he will talk at Thupten Gatsal Ling in Itanagar.
Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is home to one of most sacred Buddhist monasteries.
The Dalai Lama passed through this region when he fled into exile in 1959. Moreover, the sixth Dalai Lama was born there in the 17th century.
The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing China in 1959 after a failed uprising against Communist rule over Tibet. The government-in-exile is based at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. It is not recognised by any country.
The spiritual leader is already in the northeast where he attended the Namami Brahmaputra river festival in Assam that started on March 31.