DHARAMSHALA, August 4: China has rejected India’s request to re-open its consulate in Tibet’s ancient capital city of Lhasa. According to Indian media reports, Beijing instead suggested Chengdu, a city on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, as an alternative location.
In May this year, New Delhi had requested Beijing to allow India to re-open its Lhasa consulate, which was shut down following the 1962 border war between the two nations.
Although there is no official word from Beijing on the rejection, observers believe that China will not tolerate a constant foreign presence in the restive capital of Tibet. Currently, only Nepal has a consulate in Lhasa.
However, according to reports, the Indian side is not willing to settle for anything other than Lhasa.
The Indian demand came on the heels of a Chinese request to open a third consulate in the south Indian city of Chennai. Beijing already has consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata and an embassy in Delhi.
China being India's largest trade partner in goods, Indian officials have been quoted as saying that a consulate in Lhasa would help bilateral trade and pilgrimage, such as the Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
Recently, India’s ambassador to China, S Jaishankar, made a rare trip to Tibet, the first by an Indian envoy in ten years. Shortly after his trip, an Indian military delegation also visited the Tibetan plateau.
India is not the only country seeking a consulate in Lhasa.
In July 2011, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee directed the US Secretary of State to forbid additional Chinese consulates in the United States until China allows a US consulate in Lhasa.
The US House of Representatives in 2009 had passed a bill authorising the establishment of a US Consulate in Tibet and also allowing the creation of a "Tibet Section" in the US embassy in Beijing.