Winding up his tenure in New Delhi, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma recently hosted a dinner here attended by Union Minister Kiren Rijiju and Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay, a move that has raised objections in China.
The dinner was hosted by Verma on January 15 for his visiting friend and Hollywood actor Richard Gere, in what may signal prominence to the Tibet issue in international fora.
The high-profile event was also attended by officials from both India and the US, besides a few Tibetan leaders.
Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs, tweeted about the January 15 event yesterday along with a picture showing Sangay and Gere among others.
"Nice meeting my dear friend Richard Gere again. Thank you HE Richard Verma for a wonderful dinner & great tenure as USA Ambassador to India," Rijiju tweeted.
"Both of them are great friends of India and contributed a lot in many areas," the minister said.
Reacting to the event, Chinese Foreign Ministry told PTI in Beijing that "No country in the world recognises the so-called Tibetan government-in-exile".
"We are firmly against any country's official contact with it in any form, and resolutely opposed to any country's interference in China's internal affairs by using Tibet- related issues as an excuse," the Foreign Ministry said.
The presence of Tibetan leaders at the dinner has brought the focus back on the issue of Tibet's sovereignty as China routinely protests visits and meetings of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and his associates saying it constitutes meddling in its internal affairs.
In October last year, China had objected to Verma's visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh which Beijing claims as southern Tibet, saying any interference by Washington in the Sino-India boundary dispute will make it "more complicated" and "disturb" hard-won peace at the border.
Last month, China took strong exception to the Dalai Lama's meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan during a children's summit.