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"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."

Obama`s China: Money talks

September 26, 2009

Claude Arpi - September 25, 2009

While the controversy over the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang still rages in
India, another visit has received rather low media coverage.

The US President Barack Obama's emissary, Valerie Jarrett flew to
Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh where she called on the Dalai Lama. Jarrett, a
Senior Obama`s Advisor and an Assistant for Intergovernmental Relations and
Public Liaison was accompanied by Maria Otero, Under Secretary in the State
Department and the Special Coordinator-designate for Tibetan issues. The
fact that Ms Otero is only a designate-Coordinator more than 9 months after
President Obama assumed office as the President of the United States shows
the little importance given to Tibet.

According to the press release from the Dalai Lama`s Private Office, Ms
Jarrett `conveyed the [US] President`s greetings to His Holiness and
informed him that she was sent to brief him about the Obama Administration`s
approach to the Tibetan issue.`

After the Dalai Lama gave his assessment on the current relations between
Dharamsala and Beijing, Jarrett talked about `the best way the United States
could assist in the resolution for the Tibetan issue, particularly in the
light of the first visit by President Obama to China in November.`

Here is the trick.

Obama decides not to offend the Chinese leadership two months before his
visit to Beijing; but as it does not befit a great champion of oppressed
people to refuse to meet with the Tibetan leader during his forthcoming
visit to the United States, he preempts critics by rushing the two ladies to
`brief` the Dalai Lama and explain the situation.

Even though the US President's Envoys said that Obama could meet the Dalai
Lama at a later date, the present move is called kowtowing in Chinese.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it: `The Obama Administration may think its
decision to cold shoulder the Dalai Lama on the Tibetan leader's upcoming
trip to Washington is smart politics. But if the leader of the free world
doesn't stand up for religious freedom, who will? The news broke earlier
this week when an Obama aide told the Tibetans that the President wants to
meet Chinese leaders before he meets the Dalai Lama. This is par for the
course for an Administration that gave only lackluster support to Iran's
democrats and has made conciliatory overtures to Putin's Russia and Kim Jong
Il's North Korea.`

Obama`s advisors will learn one day that it is not smart policy to kowtow to
a totalitarian regime like Beijing. Even the habitually back-bending Indian
diplomats know this very simple truth.

When Chhime Chhoekyapa, the Dalai Lama`s Secretary, announced the Tibetan
leader`s plans to visit the State of Arunachal Pradesh during the second
week of November, the Indian officials were in two minds, especially after
the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu categorically stated: `We
firmly oppose the Dalai [Lama] visiting the so-called Arunachal Pradesh`.

The question was `should India appease China and accept Beijing`s diktat?`
Jiang Yu had also stated that the visit `further reveals the Dalai clique's
anti-China and separatist essence`. South Block remained firm. External
Affairs Minister SM Krishna said that the Tibetan leader could go anywhere
in India: `Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India and the Dalai Lama is free
to go anywhere in India.`

Contrary to the relatively new team of Barak Obama, the 'old China hands' in
Delhi are aware that if you once accept a 'protest' from Beijing, there will
be no limit to new demands or complaints. India has experienced this when
the Indian Prime Minister visited Arunachal, with any new infrastructure
development in the State or with deployment of armed forces.

Though Washington does not have the same stakes and compulsions as Delhi,
the US has remained active in the Tibetan issue in the past, trying to
promote contacts, if not negotiations, between Dharamsala and Beijing.

Under Section 611 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, 2003 (Tibetan
Policy Act of 2002), a report on the state of the negotiations between
Dharamsala and Beijing has to be regularly presented by the White House to
the US Congress.

According to the 2007 Report: `The Dalai Lama can be a constructive partner
as China deals with the difficult challenges of regional and national
stability. He represents the views of the vast majority of Tibetans and his
moral authority helps to unite the Tibetan community inside and outside of
China. China's engagement with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to
resolve problems facing Tibetans is in the interest of both the Chinese
Government and the Tibetan people. At the same time, the lack of resolution
of these problems leads to greater tensions inside China and will be a
stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United
States and other nations.`

The last US Administration, though not appreciated for its policies (and
actions) in world affairs, regularly raised the Tibet issue with the Chinese
leadership. Unfortunately, when Hillary Clinton went to China soon after
taking up her job as Secretary of State, she did not utter a word about
Human Rights or Tibet; a great change from the Bush Administration.

The 2007 US Report explained that since he assumed Office in January 2001,
President Bush had consistently urged the Chinese Government `to engage in
substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and to
respect the unique cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage of the
Tibetan people`.

President Bush received the Dalai Lama at the White House on November 9,
2005, The President is said to have reiterated the strong US commitment "to
support the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and
linguistic identity and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans".
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Paula Dobriansky, the then Special
Coordinator for Tibetan Issues attended the meeting.

The report also asserted that during a visit to China in November 2005,
President Bush urged President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to engage in
a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He is supposed to have specifically told the
Chinese leaders: 'It would be wise for the Chinese government to invite the
Dalai Lama to China so that he can tell them exactly what he told [the
President] in the White House... that he has no desire for an independent

According to the same Report, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
`consistently raised the issues of human rights and religious freedom at the
highest levels, including in meetings with the Chinese President, Premier,
State Counselor, and Foreign Minister.` She is said to have regularly
highlighted the need of progress in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and to have
encouraged the Beijing leadership to work with the United States `toward a
resolution of some of the structural issues in human rights and religious
freedom` in China and in particular, `reach out to the Dalai Lama, a man who
is, for Tibet, a man of considerable authority and considerable moral
authority, but who really is of no threat to China.`

In October 2007, when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold
Medal, the highest civilian honour the legislature can bestow, President
Bush and his wife attended the event by the side of Nancy Pelosi, the House
Speaker. A few months later when she visited Dharamsala, Pelosi affirmed:
"The United States must continue to be committed to meeting the challenge
that Tibet makes to the conscience of the world.`

It seems that the Obama`s Administration, which has been elected to 'change'
the US and the world, is not aware of this very basic notion. Prof. Samdhong
Rinpoche, the Tibetan Prime Minister rightly laments: `Even the US
government is doing some kind of appeasement... today economic interests are
much greater than other interests.`

Money makes the world go round, like it always did. So where's the Change?

The writer is a French journalist and writer.
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