- Ministers were asked to skip event for 60 years of Dalai Lama in India
- Move was seen as not to anger China but centre insisted it was not so
- Event was attended by minister Mahesh Sharma, BJP's Ram Madhav
Ram Madhav described India and Tibet as "spiritual and religious colleagues".
"India has always played an affectionate and endearing host to all those who chose its lands as temporary home and spiritual abode... We don't want to call the Tibetans as refugees; you are our guests; we call you exiles," the BJP strategist told the gathering.
The Union Minister later tweeted that he had reiterated India's relationship with the Tibetans as "honoured guests".
"Tibetans are our friends and esteemed guests in India. We love to have this relation of togetherness and brotherhood," he said.
At the #ThankYouIndia event that celebrates the 60 years of the arrival of his holiness @DalaiLama in India organized by Central Tibetan Administration at Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. pic.twitter.com/iQJiui6NA7- Dr. Mahesh Sharma (@dr_maheshsharma) March 31, 2018
The minister's presence is in contrast to the stand articulated by the government in Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha's letter to central departments and state governments, telling them to steer clear of these events since this is a "sensitive time" for India-China ties.
The advice was widely seen as the government reversing its assertive stand towards China to calm ties strained by the Doklam stand-off last year. Strategic experts such as Brahma Chellaney at the think-tank Centre for Policy Research had described the government's stand as "unfortunate".
The Foreign Ministry had then, however, insisted that there had been no change in the government's approach.
Sources said similar circulars had emanated from the centre in the past also.
Like in 2007 when events were planned in Delhi to felicitate the Tibetan spiritual leader after he was awarded the US Congressional gold medal. But the BJP had then been a sharp critic of the Manmohan Singh government.
Rajnath Singh, then BJP president had suggested that the circular had been issued under the pressure of the left parties and their concerns towards China.
India had given shelter to the Dalai Lama in 1959 when the spiritual leader fled Tibet during an uprising there. The spiritual leader lives mostly in Dharamshala and his supporters run a small government in exile and campaign for autonomy for Tibet by peaceful means.
New Delhi has allowed the Dalai Lama to pursue his religious activities in India and to travel abroad.