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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Obama may meet Dalai Lama as Beijing seethes

July 20, 2009

Sachin Parashar, Times of India TNN 19 July 2009, 02:08am IST
NEW DELHI: Beijing is not going to be amused but the Obama
administration has approached Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama for a
meeting with the US president when the Buddhist monk visits America
between September-end and mid-October.

Highly placed government sources told TOI that the US administration has
contacted Dalai Lama's office for a meeting between the two leaders in
what appears to be a considered decision, given China's intense
resentment of any official contact with the Dalai Lama whom it reviles
as a ``splittist''.

China's anger has only increased after the violent protests ahead of
last year's Beijing Olympics and sees the Dalai Lama as the rallying
point for Tibetan separatists. Perhaps anticipating that Obama may want
to meet the Dalai Lama, China had on April 23 officially ``warned'' the
US president against meeting the supreme spiritual leader of Tibetan
Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Los Angeles in the last week of
September after which he will fly to Vancouver to attend a peace
conference. He will fly back to US in October where he has official
engagements in Washington DC between October 8 and October 11 which is
when the meeting could work out.

``I don't think the exact date and time has been finalized and the two
sides are still working it out. If it works out, they should meet during
his stay in Washington DC,'' said sources.
It does remain to be seen whether Obama meets him ``privately'' like his
predecessor George Bush or officially in the Oval Office. Bush had met
the Tibetan spiritual leader in 2007 at his White House residence,
apparently as a figleaf of sorts to calm a livid China.

As part of its intense campaign this year to isolate the Buddhist
leader, China has made several representations to the US government
urging Washington to prevent the Dalai Lama from carrying out
``separatist activities'' on its territory.

During his stay in the US capital in October, Dalai Lama is scheduled to
attend a ``Mind and Life Conference'' on the theme of Educating World
Citizens in the 21st Century. He will also lecture on `The Heart of
Change: Finding Wisdom in the Modern World' in an event organized by the
Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture.

Beijing remains highly sensitive to any gesture of support to Dalai Lama
and is apprehensive about such events lending a certain publicity and
even legitimacy to the leader's cause given the impressive support he
enjoys among celebrities and think tanks in the West. With Obama still
riding a wave of popularity at home and abroad, China feels the Dalai
Lama's meeting with Obama will boost the Tibetan cause.

Whether or not Obama would meet Dalai Lama has been a subject of intense
speculation in the US with some analysts arguing that, like Bush and
Bill Clinton before him, Obama would not ignore the leader and others
arguing that the US President may not want to upset Beijing at a time
when he is seeking support from China to battle the global economic crisis.

In fact, ahead of her visit to China this year in February, secretary of
state Hillary Clinton, currently touring India, had said that the US
would not allow China's poor human rights record to come in the way of
broader partnership and bilateral cooperation on economy and climate
change.

Overall, however, especially in the past 10-15 years, US has looked upon
the spiritual leader as a ``universal symbol of peace and tolerance''
much to the chagrin of Beijing. In 2007, it even awarded Dalai Lama the
Congressional Gold Medal - the highest US civilian honour - despite
stiff opposition by China.
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