Dharamshala: Five decades after the invasion of Tibet and an ensuing new border conflict between India and China forced the Indian government to shut down its consulate in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, a Chinese foreign ministry official claims that India can re-open its consulate any time it wants.
"India can set up a consulate in Lhasa," said Jujian Hua, director at Tibet's Foreign Affairs Office. "That depends on India."
Hua continues, "The two governments started communication several years ago in terms of trade and culture. The local government (of Tibet) has attached great importance to trade, culture and tradition (exchanges), including tourism."
According to Hua, tourism between the two countries has greatly increased, with more than 12,000 Indians visiting Tibet this year to make a pilgrammage Mt Kailash, the 6,638m Himalayan peak in Tibet's Nari province that is venerated by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike. "Deepening the bilateral relationship really depends on India," the official said.
The Indian consulate in Lhasa was closed following the tumult in Tibet during the 1950s, after China annexed the former Buddhist kingdom and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India following a failed uprising in 1959.
Three years later, China attacked India and the Indian consulate in Lhasa was closed. Currently, Nepal is the only country allowed a consulate in “the Forbidden City” of Lhasa—although there have been rapid changes in Nepal's own political scenario.
Like India, the US is also seeking to open a consulate in Lhasa. This May, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to establish a consulate in Lhasa.
Edited by Ms Amy Elmgren The Tibet Post International