Obama-Dalai Lama meeting possible

By Vishal Gulati, IANS, July 21, 2009

Dharamsala, India -- Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is all set to take up the cause of the exiles and the need to restart the dialogue process with China on Tibet’s future with the Obama administration during his visit to the US in October this year.

<< Then Senator Obama - wearing a 'kata' -  with the Dalai Lama (filepic)

The proposed meeting with US President Barack Obama, though not officially confirmed by the Dalai Lama’s office here, has already led to a stern warning by China.

Sources in the Dalai Lama’s office told IANS that modalities regarding the meeting between the Buddhist monk and the US president “are being worked out and will be finalised shortly”.

“US authorities are keen to finalise the meeting… His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) is also keen to take up the cause of the exiles and the need to restart the dialogue process on the future of Tibet with US President Obama,” a senior official in Dalai Lama’s office said, requesting anonymity.

The official said the meeting between the two leaders has been kept a closely guarded secret in view of the Chinese reaction.

The Dalai Lama, who believes in “middle-path” policy that demands “greater autonomy” for the Tibetans, is viewed by the Chinese as a hostile element, who is bent on splitting Tibet from China.

The Chinese government has stepped up pressure on foreign governments that receive visits from the spiritual leader. It has already reacted angrily to a meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama, saying the meeting would sour Sino-US relations.

Dalai Lama’s secretary Tenzin Taklha declined to confirm on the proposed meeting but confirmed the Tibetan leader was visiting the US in October.

“I don’t want to comment regarding the meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama. Yes this is right that the Dalai Lama is visiting US October to deliver lectures and to attend functions there.”

But many radicals, particularly the youth in the exiled community in Dharamsala, believe that the Nobel laureate’s meeting with Obama would highlight the cause of Tibet.

“This (Dalai Lama-Obama meeting) will be a good platform to highlight the cause of the Tibetans,” said Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC).

“Chinese have never been sincere with the people of Tibet and the exiles. The ongoing talks (between China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys) have almost reached a deadlock… the ball is in the Chinese court (to restart the dialogue process).

“But we believe that the US could play a vital role in highlighting the plight of the Tibetans, both inside and outside Tibet, and restarting the dialogue process,” he said.

The Tibetan government-in-exile is also trying to break the impasse with the Chinese for restarting the dialogue process.

“We have deliberated upon ways to break the impasse with the Chinese so that the dialogue process can come back on track,” Sonam N. Dagpo, secretary of international affairs of the government-in-exile, has told IANS.

The two sides - China and envoys of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama - have held eight rounds of talks since 2002 to try and find a solution to the Tibetan issue.

Fifty years ago, the Dalai Lama fled into exile and established his government-in-exile at McLeodganj, near here. The government is not recognised by any country.

The ultimate spiritual and political leader for millions of Tibetans, he says he does not seek independence but only autonomy for his people because he fears their cultural and religious traditions are being slowly crushed.

Nearly six million Tibetans live in the Tibet region of China while over 150,000 live in other countries, most of them in India.

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