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China pressure apparently disrupts Russian delegation’s visit

December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008
By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, December 21: Apparent Chinese pressure has caused an untimely wrap-up of an ongoing visit by a Russian delegation to Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile in northern India.
Russia, a close ally of China, has sent an unexpected last minute signal on an unofficial delegation visiting Dharamsala, mainly to meet the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to have a better understanding about the Tibetan situation, cautioning them from carrying forward their remaining schedule.
The Delegation included three members of State Duma (Lower House of Russian Parliament), Prime Minister of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia Mr Singleev Vladmir, and Vice Speaker of the Kalmyk Parliament Mr Ebikov Hongat.
The entire delegation accompanied by some 25 journalists, including reporters from Ukraine, arrived in Dharamsala on Thursday, and as of Friday they were to stay here beyond Sunday. But, around Friday afternoon, a sudden interruption from Russian government required at least the three members of the Parliament to leave the exile Tibetan base at their earliest.
Not only this; of the five members of Duma who have previously planned for the visit, only three were able to make it to Dharamsala. The other two, according to Telo Rinpoche, the head (Shajin Lama) of Kalmyk Buddhists who played a key-role in organizing the delegation’s visit, had to cancel their planned trip towards the last moment without “any available comment”.
Interestingly, of those who arrived in Dharamsala, by Friday afternoon they have had already completed a greater part of their schedule. During their two-day tour, they visited Tibetan cultural, religious and educational centers in and around Dharamsala and, interacted extensively with important representatives of the exiled Tibetan community and exchanged good-will souvenirs with them.
The only considerable agenda left for them now was a meeting with the Dalai Lama without which their visit could not be far more complete and more meaningful.
So they decided not to leave without meeting the Dalai Lama.
The delegation, on Saturday, met with the Dalai Lama before the three State Duma members had to leave for their country later on the very same day.
China, which somehow reviles the Dalai Lama as a “separatist” has routinely warned world leaders from meeting him. It has also regularly opposed countries that agree to a visit by the Tibetan leader, while in some cases even able to effectively enforce its influence on them.
But, after seeing Dharamsala, the Duma members and the remaining members of the delegation have one important message to be conveyed to their Russian government, as the Tibetans would like to put it: “Supporting the just cause of Tibet does not amount to being anti-China”.
At a dinner reception, hosted for the delegation on Friday by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, the Speaker of the Tibetan House Mr Penpa Tsering insists: “When you go back to Russia, you can tell your government that supporting Tibet is not standing against China.”
He, however, said that the delegation’s visit was a “historic moment for both Tibet and Russia” saying, according to the information he gathered, that it was a rare visit by Russian delegation in as many years in recent time.
Mr Penpa’s note indicated that a rare Russian delegation’s visit could not last without any pressure.
Fearing the delegation’s possible meeting with the Dalai Lama and their opportunity to better understand Tibetan issue is what actually could have forced Russian government into interrupting the delegation’s visit to this small hill town in northern India.
“We can logically sense where this pressure has suddenly come from in the middle of their ongoing visit,” Telo Rinpoche says.
“I overheard from their conversation that they were suddenly facing some apparent pressure from Russian government,” Rinpcohe tells Phayul on Friday. When asked if Russia has played into China’s hand, Rinpoche says “there is no doubt about it”.
“We can individually sense that this delegation’s visit was intercepted much later, and has accordingly forced relevant Russian authorities to mount a pressure on them,” Rinpoche said.
According to Telo Rinpoche, such kind of pressure from Russia was not new.
“There were similar pressures from the Russian government side in the past when it comes to Tibet’s issue,” he says. “And we know that Russia and China are strongest allies,” he adds.
However, speaking at the dinner reception, PM Singleev of Kalmykia, a federal subject of the Russian Federation, said he felt “blessed” to be in Dharamsala. “I tried to visit Dharamsala three times in the past, and only this time I was able to make it,” he said.
“We lost our Buddhist legacy and that is why we now ask Tibetans for help. Religion is our source of hope and to develop Kalmykia,” the PM said.
Also speaking at the Friday’s dinner reception Mr Vladimir Matkhanov, a senior member of Russian Parliament and a leading member in the delegation, personally expressed hope for a day when His Holiness the Dalai Lama would go back to Tibet and that the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile would start functioning in Tibet.
“Our Visit may be unofficial, but we are still a delegation from Russia,” Mr Matkhanov said.
With him were a Kalmyk MP Ms Marina Mukabenova and Mr Valery Galchenko, an MP from Moscow region.
While the three Duma deputies left Dharamsala on Saturday right after an audience with the Dalai Lama, other remaining delegates have preferred to stay longer.
“Positive thing about this trip is that these members of Duma, regardless of how much pressure and inconvenience they faced, made a successful visit here. This can help bridge a relation with Tibet in Russian parliament in future,” Telo Rinpoche tells Phayul.
“Only in the last ten years we were able to re-establish our long shared religious and cultural ties with the people of Tibet,” the Kalmyk Buddhist head says, adding: “We now want to make efforts to build a strong relation in Russian parliament and seek support for Tibet like many other countries are doing now. This way we want to start some kind of strong movement politically for Tibet in Russia”.
In 2006, the Republic of Kalmykia presented His Holiness the Dalai Lama the “White Lotus Order”, the highest civilian award of the country, in recognition of the Tibetan leader’s “outstanding merits and considerable contribution for the prosperity and the revival of spirituality” in the region.
To confer the honour, a high delegation led by the Kalmyk President Mr. Kirsan Nikolayevich llyumzhinov and the Chairman of the country’s Parliament Mr. Kichikov Igor arrived in Dharamsala.
For Kalmyk, Buryat and Tuva (another Republic under Russia) Buddhists, the Dalai Lama not only represents one of the world’s most inspiring figures and a revered exiled Tibetan leader, he is their supreme spiritual leader.
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