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21october200910Dharamsala, Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on 8-15 November, to give lectures in the cities of Tawang, Diang, Bungzla and Itanagar. Indian officials have defended Tibet's exiled spiritual leader against Chinese opposition to his trip.

The visit is controversial because Arunachal lies on the border between the two Asian giants, India and China, and both countries claim the region as their own. Some Indian media reported that India and China "traded diplomatic jabs" earlier this month when India's Prime Minister Manuman Singh visited Arunachal.

"China's position on so-called Arunachal Pradesh is consistent and clear and we firmly oppose the Dalai Lama's visit to the region," AFP quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as telling reporters in Beijing.

Ma added that, "This further exposes the Dalai Lama's nature of anti-China separatism."

Indian foreign minister Niripama Rao insisted last Friday that His Holiness "does not indulge in political activities" and as a guest of India, "he is free to visit any part of our country", according to a report by The Indian Express.

Tibetan exile Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche said China's opposition was "absurd", and it will not interfere with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's scheduled visit to the region next month.

"How can they dictate things to a sovereign country like India?" the Rinpoche asked incredulously, stating that, "It's not worth taking note of."

The proposed trip will be the exiled Tibetan leader's fifth visit to Arunachal Pradash, the last of which took place in 2003.

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