China today hit out at India's statement saying the Dalai Lama was "free to travel" to Arunachal Pradesh, warning that any visit would "damage" relations.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has been invited to visit the state in March 2017, and the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that as a "revered spiritual figure and an honoured guest of India" the Dalai Lama is "absolutely free to travel to any part of the country".
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader last visited the border state in 2009.
The invitation to the "Dalai Lama for activity in the disputed areas between China and India will only damage peace stability of the border areas as well as the bilateral relationship between China and India", said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
His comments were in response to Dalai Lama's scheduled visit to Arunachal Pradesh early next year at the invitation of the state's Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
Beijing on Monday hit out at the US Ambassador in India Richard Verma for his visit to Tawang last week, blasting US "meddling" in the border dispute.
Reports of the 14th Dalai Lama's upcoming visit brought an even sharper response on Friday.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet. The Dalai Lama, denounced by China as a separatist for seeking independence for Tibet, fled from there through Arunachal Pradesh in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He is expected on his trip to visit a famous Buddhist monastery of Tawang.
China claims more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) of territory disputed by India in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. Much of that forms the state of Arunachal Pradesh. India rejects that claim and says China occupies 38,000 square km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.