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US struggles to deal with Dalai Lama

Washington DC is rarely short of an answer, no matter what the question. It is having one of those rare seizures now, and over how should it treat Dalai Lama, who is in town with Buddhism’s biggest initiation ceremony.

world Updated: Jul 08, 2011 23:37 IST
Yashwant Raj

Washington DC is rarely short of an answer, no matter what the question. It is having one of those rare seizures now, and over how should it treat Dalai Lama, who is in town with Buddhism’s biggest initiation ceremony.

Is President Barrack Obama going to meet him? His press secretary Jay Carney ducked the question at the briefing on Wednesday. And the state department refused to answer clearly on Thursday if he will meet Secretary Hillary Clinton.

The Chinese don’t want him to be received by any official in the US, and they have said so in as many words in an official communication, which was barely acknowledged by a reluctant administration here.

A state department official Maria Otero, undersecretary for global affairs, met Dalai Lama at the airport on arrival on Tuesday. He has not had any official meetings since, apart from meeting political leaders.

One of these leaders, congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives, then wrote to the president urging him to see Dalai Lama and send a message.

And that message was simply this: “the U.S. sides with the victims in Tibet, not the perpetrators in Beijing”.

Tibet is an autonomous region of China, but is anything but autonomous.

Dalai Lama fled Tibet in the early 1950s fearing imminent persecution by the communist government — he was only 14 then. He was given sanctuary by India, and Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh has been his home since. Dalai Lama is for China is what Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo is for the US.

The US wants Liu released and uses his imprisonment to embarrass the Chinese. And Chine wants the US, as the rest of the world, to ignore Dalai Lama. But the US has resisted the pressure to give in.

So far that is.