With the Tibet issue on his mind, the United States' Ambassador to India Dr David C Mulford made his maiden visit to the hill town on Tuesday memorable by celebrating his 70th birthday with the Dalai Lama.
Mulford and wife Jeannie arrived in Dharamsala in the afternoon and later called on the Tibetan leader at his residence in Macleodganj. Though the visit was kept tightly guarded from the media, it is learnt that apart from exchanging pleasantries, the two held informal discussions on the "sensitive" issue for more than an hour. The Dalai Lama, on his part, greeted Mulford on his birthday.
"It is a very special day for me, as it is my 70th birthday. I am glad to meet the Tibetan community and the Dalai Lama. Since the Dalai Lama's birthday falls on July 6, we both greeted each other," the American diplomat told the
. Mulford, who was escorted by officials of the Tibetan government in exile, spent several moments with children at the Tibetan Children's Village and inspected the campus of the school there.
Mulford termed his visit a private affair but gave ample of hint that the United States — which backs the Dalai Lama — was serious on resolving the Tibet issue. "The United States has good relations with China. We encourage the dialogue process between the Chinese and Tibetans. We hope both (China and Tibet) will continue the process in future," he said.
Though he refused to elaborate on the issue, he minced no words in showing his country's support to the Tibetans. "Our country is sensitive to the Tibetan community," he said. Responding to a query on what his message to the community in exile would be, he said: "My only message to them is to have faith."
Later in the evening, Mulford called on Tibetan Prime Minister Professor Samdhong Rinpoche at his office and held a meeting with the cabinet ministers of the Tibetan government in exile. "Since it was a private visit, there was nothing specific on the agenda, though certain things could be discussed informally," said Rinpoche.
The Tibetan government also held a special banquet in honour of their distinguished guest.