New Delhi: The newly elected head of Tibet`s government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, has appealed to the Indian government to make Tibet "a core issue" in relations with China.
The call comes after Tibetan exiles elected Sangay as their new prime minister last month, following the Dalai Lama`s announcement that he would retire as the movement`s political leader.
"I appeal to the Indian politicians and Indian government -- do consider Tibet as a core issue between India and China and accordingly please act on it," Sangay said in a television interview aired on Saturday.
The Harvard academic`s call came as Indo-Chinese relations have become more prickly in recent times over such issues as trade and their disputed Himalayan border -- the trigger for a brief, bloody war in 1962.
India, home to at least 100,000 Tibetan exiles, many of whom live in the northern hill town of Dharamshala, has long taken a cautious stance on Tibet.
New Delhi says Tibetans can remain in India as long as they do not use the country as a springboard for anti-Chinese activities.
Although the Dalai Lama, 75, retains the more significant role of spiritual leader as well as his hold on major policy-making decisions, his decision to transfer his powers to the head of the government-in-exile makes Sangay a far more prominent figure than his predecessor.
He also warned that India was being encircled by China as Beijing strengthens its South Asia presence, building stronger relations with Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"You can see the encirclement of India by China interests," the 43-year-old international law expert told a news channel.
"So I just want to remind or highlight these facts, let Indian leaders decide for themselves what to do."
Sangay`s statements coincide with Indian perceptions that China is taking a tougher line on its border claims, which have led New Delhi to beef up its military presence along its frontier with thousands of extra combat troops.