Foreign journalists yet to get access to Tawang

New Delhi: The government has yet to grant permission to foreign journalists to cover the Dalai Lama’s week-long visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh that begins Sunday, saying the applications are still “under consideration”.

The applications by 36 foreign journalists for restricted area permits (RAPs), mandatory for foreigners wishing to travel to Arunachal Pradesh, are yet to be cleared. “They are still under consideration,” official sources said Saturday evening.

The foreign journalists were due to leave Saturday for Tawang via Guwahati. According to the rules, foreigners have to approach the external affairs ministry for RAPs to travel to India’s northeastern state, over which China claims sovereignty.

“When applications are made to visit Arunachal Pradesh, the ministry of external affairs, the nodal agency for foreign correspondents, recommends them to the ministry of home affairs,” official sources said here. The home ministry takes the final call.

“Due process is being followed,” the sources added.

According to RAP rules, foreign tourists can visit the state in a group of two or more and the permit for stay is up to 30 days. Foreigners can obtain RAP from Indian missions abroad, foreigners’ regional registration officers (FRROs) in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, chief immigration officers, the union home ministry and the Arunachal Pradesh government’s home commissioner.

Even Indian citizens from other states require Inner Line Permit to visit the northeastern state.

Disappointed at the denial of permits, Heather Timmons, president of New Delhi-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club, said Thursday: “We are surprised and disappointed to learn that reporters’ visas to Arunachal Pradesh have been cancelled ahead of the Dalai Lama’s visit.”

The Tibetan leader will Sunday inaugurate a museum and a library at the Tawang monastery and then address monks and priests. He will then visit the adjoining town of Bomdilla and Dirang on Nov 12, before leaving for state capital Itanagar Nov 14. The visit ends Nov 15.

The Dalai Lama’s visit to the picturesque town of Tawang, the seat of a revered 16th century Buddhist monastery, has grabbed headlines due to China’s objections to the Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit. Beijing claims the region as its own and calls it “south Tibet”.

China has accused Dalai Lama of trying to wreck India-China ties by going ahead with the much-hyped trip.

India has made it clear that the Dalai Lama, who has been living in the hill resort of Dharamsala since 1959, can visit anywhere in the country provided he does not indulge in political activities.

China has opposed the visits of Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to the northeastern state.

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