Tibetans detained ahead of Modi-Xi meeting

Primer Minister Narendra Modi (C-R) arrives in Chennai, ahead of a summit with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping to be held at the World Heritage Site of Mahabalipuram from October 11 to 13 in Tamil Nadu state. AFP Photo

bAt least 11 Tibetans, including students, were detained by Chennai Police on Friday ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to this metropolis. The Tibetans were detained from airport and outside the ITC Grand Chola, the luxury hotel where Xi will stay tonight, as they attempted to protest against the Chinese President’s visit to India.

While seven persons were arrested from outside the ITC Grand Chola, the remaining five were detained at the Chennai Airport as they arrived from Bengaluru. The Tibetans were planning to hold protests in Chennai during Xi’s visit.

As the Tibetans attempted to protest, police bundled them into vehicles and took them away from the spot. 

The police had earlier arrested or picked up at least 42 Tibetans, including prominent activists, from across the state to ensure no protest takes place during the high-profile visit.

Tensing Norbu, a professor with a private college on the ECR, was picked up on Tuesday, while Tibetan activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue was arrested on Sunday.

The arrests were made in apprehension that the Tibetan activists might hold protests during or ahead of Xi Jinping’s visit. Sources in Chennai police said they had been authorised “to detain any Tibetan activist who attempts to stage protests, holds a gathering and violates law and order.”

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

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

New Delhi said this week that changes to Kashmir's status were an internal affair 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.

China has longstanding military ties with Pakistan, which has twice fought a war with India over Muslim-majority 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 miles) 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, who have overlapping territorial claims. 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.

With Reuters inputs

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