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Influence of Dalai Lama over Tibetans may be waning: US cable

world Updated: Dec 17, 2010 19:59 IST

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Amid US fears that the influence of the Dalai Lama over the exiled Tibetan community might be waning, the Buddhist spiritual leader made desperate appeals for American intervention during the 2008 unrest in Lhasa to "make an impact" in China, according to secret US cables published by WikiLeaks.

Cables released by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks show that US diplomats in New Delhi were in for a surprise when the Dalai Lama, instead of harping on the Tibet issue, asked during a meeting that the international community should focus on climate change because environmental problems were more urgent.

US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer felt that the Dalai Lama may be seeking to reframe the Tibet issue "as an environmental concern".

75-year-old Dalai Lama told the US ambassador during a meeting in Delhi in August 2009 that the "political agenda should be sidelined for five to 10 years and the international community should shift its focus to climate change on the Tibetan plateau", The Guardian reported on Friday.

The exiled leader told the US envoy: "Melting glaciers, deforestation and increasingly polluted water from mining projects were problems that 'cannot wait', but the Tibetans could wait five to 10 years for a political solution".

The secret cables also reveal US fears that the influence of the Dalai Lama over the Tibetan community in exile might be waning or that a succession to his leadership could pose problems.

In June 2008, US officials reported that their visit to six Tibetan refugee settlements across north and north-eastern India "underscores concerns that frustrated and dissatisfied Tibetan youth... could pose serious problems," according to The Guardian daily.

The cables also reveal the desperate appeals made by the Dalai Lama for intervention by the US during unrest in Tibet during spring 2008.

He pleaded with US officials to take action that would "make an impact" in Beijing.

One cable reports that the Dalai Lama embraced the embassy's officials and "made a final plea".

"Tibet is a dying nation. We need America's help," he said.

In their meeting, the ambassador reported, the Dalai Lama criticized China's energy policy, saying dam construction in Tibet had displaced thousands of people and left temples and monasteries underwater.

The exiled Tibetan leader recommended that the Chinese authorities compensate Tibetans for disrupting their nomadic lifestyle with vocational training, such as weaving, and said that there were "three poles" in danger of melting - the north pole, the south pole, and "the glaciers at the pole of Tibet".

In a cable of March 2008, an official reported that Shivshankar Menon, the current Indian national security adviser and then India's top diplomat, had explained to the US ambassador that the tacit agreement that "Tibetans are welcome in India as long as they don't cause problems is being challenged at a time when India's complex relationship with Beijing is churning with border issues, rivalry for regional influence, a growing economic interdependence, the nascent stages of joint military exercises, and numerous other priorities".

"The Tibetan movement has the sympathy of the Indian public, and India has been a generally supportive home to tens of thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, for nearly 50 years... the tacit agreement that Tibetans are welcome in India as long as they don't cause problems is being challenged at a time when India's complex relationship with Beijing is churning with border issues, rivalry for regional influence, a growing economic interdependence, the nascent stages of joint military exercises, and numerous other priorities," the March 2008 US cable said.

The US officials concluded that "while the [government of India] will never admit it", New Delhi's "balancing act with India's Tibetans [would] continue for the foreseeable future, with the caveat that a rise in violence - either by Tibetans here or by the Chinese security forces in Tibet - could quickly tip the balance in favor of the side with greater public support".