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No disruptions seen as leaders of India, China meet

BEIJING—The last two times Chinese leaders set foot in India, a Tibetan activist slipped through security to scale buildings and unfurl huge banners calling for a "Free Tibet."

This time, security agents grounded the activist in a northern Indian city, threatening to deport him if he left for New Delhi.

There were no major disruptions Tuesday as Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, leaders of the world's two most populous nations, met in a state visit in New Delhi and vowed to enhance trade and mend a relationship long marred by suspicion.

Singh, speaking with Hu at his side, pledged to double soaring trade between the two Asian giants by 2010 and mesh the two nations economically even as they compete in some spheres, such as energy extraction.

"China and India are both major developing countries, and our relationship has global significance," Hu said.

There was no public mention of Tibet, long a sensitive subject between the two neighbors. The issue may take an increasingly lesser role as China and India broaden relations, which have been generally frosty since a 1962 border war.

India allows the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, to live in Dharamsala, a northern city where Tibetans operate a government in exile. India's accommodation of some 120,000 Tibetan refugees has long been a source of friction with China.

Several hundred Tibetans protested in New Delhi on Monday ahead of Hu's visit, and four were arrested Tuesday outside Hyderabad House as the summit took place indoors. But security agents confined the activist Tenzin Tsundue to Dharamsala and reportedly prevented other protesters from converging in New Delhi.

The quashing of the protests drew criticism in India and abroad.

"Such gagging of peaceful political protests is inappropriate," the Times of India said in an editorial Tuesday. "New Delhi has officially accepted China's occupation of Tibet, but it has no business to demand that all sections of the civil society should toe the line."

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, called on Singh to lift restrictions on Tsundue and other protesters.

"In the past, India has quietly shown its support for Tibetans' human rights," Sophie Richardson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "But as New Delhi deepens its relationship with Beijing, India seems willing to violate even its own domestic human rights protections to avoid offending China."

A spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, Jiang Yu, said Beijing appreciates that New Delhi "doesn't allow Tibetans to undertake anti-Chinese activities inside India."

Tsundue, a Tibetan independence activist in his early 30s, grabbed headlines in 2002 when he scaled 14 stories of scaffolding outside a Mumbai hotel to hang a banner during the visit of then-Premier Zhu Rongji of China. In a similar stunt last year in Bangalore, Tsundue unfurled a "Free Tibet" banner during the visit there of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Among some Tibetan exile youth, Tsundue has become a hero.

Tsundue said that when he asked police why he was being restricted this time, a police official told him, "You have no right to do any political activities in India, and if you break this order you will be deported to Tibet."

A spokesman for Tsundue's Friends of Tibet organization, Baldeo Pandey, said India's diplomats were bending "to the economic and military might of China. They are not openly opposing the atrocities in Tibet."

Chinese President Hu once served as Communist Party boss in Tibet.

After his four-day visit to India, Hu will travel to Pakistan, a close ally of China. A key question for Washington will be whether China expands its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.


(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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