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NEW DELHI, Nov 2: The Indian government has quietly told government ministers to stay away from a felicitation on Saturday of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader and China’s thorn in the flesh, a news agency said on Friday.

The move follows a “fruitful” recent visit to China by Ms Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s ruling UPA coalition which is supported by communists. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too is due to visit China early next year.

The Dalai Lama is to be felicitated on Saturday by the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the All-Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet and the Core Group for Tibetan Cause for receiving the US Congressional gold medal, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Rediff.com news portal said the top secret letter is being viewed as a clear signal that New Delhi does not want to rub the Chinese on the wrong side, especially at a time when Sino-Indian relations are on a high following Ms Gandhi’s visit to Beijing last week.

The letter, sent by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar, made it clear that the felicitation is ‘not in conformity with the country’s foreign policy’ and hence did not warrant the presence of any member of the Cabinet.

Former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral is to felicitate the Dalai Lama while Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is listed among the speakers. Ms Dikshit too is unlikely to attend, rediff said.

India has played host to the Dalai Lama since he fled his homeland in 1959 following a Chinese crackdown on dissident Tibetans in Lhasa.

But it does not formally allow political activities by Tibetan exiles settled here.

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