US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has rebutted suggestions that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's meeting with the Dalai Lama and her criticism of China during her India visit had caused problems in Indo-US relations.
"Well, let me first set aside the premise that there is some problem in Indo-US relations. I don't believe that there is," Rice told reporters Monday in response to a question about "Pelosi's indiscretion" with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee standing at her side.
Pelosi and President George Bush had both spoken to the Dalai Lama when he came to the US last October to receive a Congressional Medal of Honour, America's highest civilian medal, she said.
"He is somebody who is respected. The speaker respects him. The president respects him."
"And at this particular point in time, to have contact with him, I think, is a good thing, not a bad thing because he is a moderate voice on these issues and he is a voice that, frankly, I hope the Chinese will listen to more," Rice said.
Talking to the media after a 30-minute meeting with Mukherjee, Rice referred to the Chinese crackdown in Tibet and repeated Washington's call to Beijing to have "a more sustainable policy" for Tibet, exercise restraint and have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
"...We believe that the Dalai Lama could play a very favourable role, given his belief in non-violence, given his stated position that he does not seek political independence for Tibet, and given his unassailable, authoritative moral stature not just with the people of Tibet, but with people from around the world."
"And we're going to continue to encourage that dialogue because, ultimately, that is going to be the only policy that is sustainable in Tibet," Rice said.
Mukherjee on his part said India had "expressed our concern in parliament about the latest development (in Tibet). We do hope it will be possible to resolve the issue through peaceful dialogue between the parties concerned."
Noting that the Dalai Lama and about 180,000 Tibetans had been given shelter in India, he said they can carry on their religious, cultural and spiritual activities.
"But as part of our law, they are not entitled to carry on any political activities, as Indian citizens also cannot carry on any political activities which are inimical to any friendly countries or which can disturb the relationship between India and any other country," Mukherjee said.
Meanwhile at the White House, press secretary Dana Perino said President George Bush's Deputy National Security Advisor, Jim Jeffrey, had met the Chinese ambassador to the US over the weekend and "expressed our deep concerns over the widespread security crackdown in Tibet."
"He urged them to be more peaceful, to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, which is something we have stressed before," she added.