Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Why Barack Obama won't meet the Dalai Lama

September 17, 2009

rediff news - September 16, 2009

Even the Leader of the Free World is apprehensive about China's reaction,
notes B Raman.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser and assistant to US President Barack
Obama, accompanied by Maria Otero, the Undersecretary for Democracy and
Global Affairs in the US State Department, visited Dharamshala on September
14, and met the Dalai Lama and Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the

The Dalai Lama is to visit the US next month in response to long-pending
invitations from US non-governmental organisations supporting the Tibetan
cause. During the course of his stay, he had also planned to visit
Washington, DC and his supporters in the US were trying to arrange a
courtesy call on Obama. The Dalai Lama and his advisers were hopeful of the
courtesy call materialising despite opposition from China.

This was the first time that a team of US officials including a presidential
aide had visited Dharamshala before a planned visit by the Dalai Lama to
Washington, DC. This gave rise to euphoric expectations in Dharamshala that
the US officials were coming to finalise the details of a meeting with

There was considerable disappointment in the Dalai Lama's entourage when it
turned out that the two officials had specially flown to Dharamshala to
request the Dalai Lama not to visit Washington, DC before Obama's first
visit to China scheduled for November.

Obama is reportedly worried that any meeting with the Dalai Lama before his
visit to China might spoil the atmosphere for his talks with the Chinese

The two officials are reported to have sought the Dalai Lama's understanding
for Obama's inability to meet him. They are also reported to have promised
that during his talks with the Chinese leaders, Obama would take up the
issue of the revival of the dialogue between Chinese officials and the Dalai
Lama's aides and that he would inform the Dalai Lama of the results of his
talks on Tibet in Beijing after his return to Washington, DC.

They said a fresh date for the Dalai Lama's visit to Washington could be
discussed after the president returns from China.

There is palpable disappointment in the Dalai Lama's entourage over Obama's
lack of enthusiasm for a meeting, which became evident during the
discussions with the two US officials. The disappointment was evident in
Rinpoche's remarks to journalists on September 15. He said: 'A lot of
nations are adopting a policy of appeasement (towards China). Even the US
government is doing some kind of appeasement. Today, economic interests are
much greater than other interests.'

However, Rinpoche added: 'I understand why Obama is not meeting the Dalai
Lama before his Chinese trip. It is common sense. Obama should not irritate
the Chinese leadership. China's greatest irritation is His Holiness,
wherever he goes.'

The Dalai Lama is going ahead with his plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh in
November, which could more or less coincide with Obama's visit to China. The
US officials were reported to be worried that the Chinese anger over the
Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh might come in the way of the success
of Obama's promised efforts to persuade Beijing to resume its dialogue with
the Dalai Lama.

It is not clear whether they gave any advice in this matter. It is also not
yet clear whether the Dalai Lama will go ahead with his visit to Washington,
DC next month to meet his Congressional supporters or cut it out of his
itinerary in the US.

To lessen the obvious disappointment in Dharamshala, Jarrett assured the
Dalai Lama of Obama's interest in protecting the human rights of the
Tibetans. A statement issued by the Dalai Lama's office said: 'She (Jarrett)
reiterated President Obama's commitment to support the Tibetan people in
protecting their distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural heritage and
securing respect for their human rights and civil liberties. She said the
President commends the Dalai Lama for being consistent in looking for a
solution based on Tibetan autonomy with the People's Republic of China. She
discussed with His Holiness the best way the US could assist in the
resolution for the Tibetan issue, particularly in the light of the first
visit by President Obama to China in November.'
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank