India cuts short Olympic torch route fearing Tibetan protests

Other News Materials 3 April 2008 15:20 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Indian authorities have been forced to cut short the route of the Olympic torch relay across New Delhi owing to security and diplomatic concerns over protests by Tibetan activists, media reports said Thursday.

The relay in the Indian capital on April 17 was originally scheduled to go from the historic 17th century Red Fort to the India Gate, a distance of about 9 kilometres.

The route has now been shortened to about 2.5 kilometres between Raisina Hill - where the Presidential Palace is located - and the India Gate, the Indian NDTV network reported.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) which is organizing the torch relay in Delhi, confirmed the development.

"The route has been shortened and the details will be made known on a later date," IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh told the PTI news agency.

China has been upset about the Tibetan protests in India. Last month, Tibetan protestors stormed its embassy in New Delhi which led China to summon the Indian ambassador to express its displeasure.

Anticipating Tibetan protests during the India-leg of the Olympic torch relay, the Chinese government recently conveyed its concerns to the Indian Home Ministry.

Local media reported that China had even warned to skip the torch relay in India if foolproof security was not assured.

India has promised to make adequate security arrangements during the flame's passage.

The Indian Foreign Office said Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee in a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Wednesday said the government will take necessary measures to ensure the passage of the Olympic torch was a success.

According to NDTV, police and security agencies will be placed on alert days before the event and the entire area will be "sanitized" to ensure there is no untoward incident. Even children participating in the run will be issued identification passes.

"We will not allow anyone to come except those who have been invited," Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told NDTV.

While Jiechi briefed Mukherjee about the situation in Tibet and appreciated steps taken by India to ensure safety of Chinese diplomats and citizens in India, Mukherjee reiterated that New Delhi does not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India.

Earlier this week, Mukherjee asked the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, to restrain his followers and not to upset India's ties with China.

An estimated 100,000 Tibetan refugees currently live in 35 settlements and numerous smaller communities across India. The Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans fled to India after China cracked down on the Tibetan uprising of 1959.