India should be more proactive on Tibet - Dalai Lama aide on eve of China Xi visit

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India should be more proactive when it comes to the issue of Tibetan autonomy, an aide to the Dalai Lama said, after the spiritual leader was asked to reschedule an event to avoid it clashing with Chinese leader Xi Jinping's visit to India.

Tempa Tsering, the Dalai Lama's representative in New Delhi, said Tibetan exiles were grateful to India for years of refuge, but that it was time the country took a stronger stance with its neighbour China.

"India is extremely kind, generous and understanding with Tibetans in the area of culture, education and resettlement,"Tsering said. "But with regard to the settlement of the Tibetan issue, sometimes India is over-cautious. We would like to see them be a little more proactive."

Tsering confirmed on Tuesday that the Indian government had asked the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhists, to delay a spiritual conclave that was due to start in Delhi on Friday, the last day of Xi's visit beginning on Wednesday. The conclave on religious harmony is now scheduled to begin on Saturday.

Tsering said India's request to delay the event was understandable in the circumstances. Tsering expressed hope that Xi would also be more sensitive to demands for more autonomy for Tibet, where a spate of self-immolations in protest at Beijing's rule has led to a security crackdown.

"Some say that maybe Xi is the most powerful leader since Mao, and when you have a powerful leader they can be more decisive," Tsering said.

China regularly applies diplomatic pressure on its allies to reduce privileges offered to the Dalai Lama, who it labels a separatist seeking an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama says he only seeks more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

South Africa last week denied a visa to the Dalai Lama for the third time in five years.

Xi is only the third Chinese president to visit India. Modi's government plans a warm welcome and hopes the trip will kick-start closer economic ties. At the same time India has signalled that it will be more assertive with regard to strategic and territorial jostling with its larger neighbour.

Xi will start his India trip in Modi's home state of Gujarat. The Indian prime minister has in recent days made much of India's shared Buddhist heritage with China.

The Dalai Lama, 79, has lived in India since fleeing across the Himalayas after a failed uprising in 1959. The head of the Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, attended Modi's inauguration in May, annoying China.