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Tibetan Activists Vow to Disrupt Olympic Torch Relay Despite Tighter Security, Shortened India Route


Tibetan activists say tightened security and a shortened route for the Olympic torch relay will not dissuade them from attempting to disrupt the ceremonial event in India, this month. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman has the story from New Delhi.

The Olympic torch for the Summer Games is only to spend 20 hours in India, but the planning and
security are beginning to resemble those for a visiting head of state.

The reason is both Beijing and New Delhi fear Tibetan activists will disrupt the torch relay, on April 17 in the Indian capital.

To minimize the chance of that happening, India will surround the torch will an intensive
security cordon. Discussions were held Thursday, to review the route. Media reports say the relay in New Delhi will be shortened from nine kilometers to as little as two kilometers.

The joint secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress in Dharamsala, Tenzin Norsang, tells VOA News that, no matter the security precautions and how abbreviated a relay run, activists will do their utmost to interfere.

"Our reaction is the same, that we will never let this torch in India," he said. " Being Tibetan we do have another duty - to not let this torch relay in India to be successful. There will be no changes in our plan. Whether we succeed or not, we do have a plan and we will go through (with) our plan."

There are an estimated 100,000 Tibetan refugees in India.

China, host of this year's Summer Games in Beijing, has warned any disruption to the torch relay in India will harm ties between the two giant neighbors.

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has requested that the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetans, ensure his followers in this country do nothing to damage Indo-Sino relations.

The Dalai Lama has been in exile in Dharamsala for nearly a half century and is regarded by the Indians as a "respected guest." But the welcome is wearing thin in some official quarters here, because of the increasing demonstrations by Tibetans in India. Those activities have taken place in sympathy with the recent uprising in Tibet, the largest protests by Tibetans in nearly 20 years.

Last month, Tibetan protesters stormed the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. That has prompted repeated official expressions of displeasure from China's government to Indian diplomats.

Although disputes between Beijing and New Delhi linger over territorial and political issues, economic ties are stronger than ever, with two-way trade estimated to reach $40 billion, this year.

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