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Obama Should Meet Who/Hu First?

November 6, 2009

When the announcement was made that President
Obama would not meet the Dalai Lama on the
latter’s trip to the USA last month, the
disappointment in the Tibetan world was palpable.
I felt a little better after seeing this AFP
headline "West Appeasing China on Tibet, says
PM-in-exile" [Wednesday, September 16, 2009
17:43]. The report also did not disappoint:
Jamyang Norbu
Shadow Tibet
November 4, 2009

DHARAMSHALA, India -- Tibetan prime
minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche on Tuesday
accused the United States and other Western
nations of appeasing China in regard to the
mountain territory. The charge came after aides
to The Dalai Lama said the Tibetan Buddhist
spiritual leader would not meet President Barack
Obama on a planned visit to Washington next
month." "A lot of nations are adopting a policy
of appeasement," Rinpoche told a group of
journalists late Tuesday" "Even the US government
is doing some kind of appeasement," Rinpoche
said. "Today, economic interests are much greater
than other interests," Rinpoche went on to say.

The novelty of a tough, or at least not
submissive, statement coming from Dharamshala was
a pleasant surprise for many. This comment
appeared on Phayul.com: "Finally, after 50 years
in exile, a statement from the TGIE that has a
little backbone, calculation and heart! Speaking
our true feelings..." and "Well done Rinpoche."
and "...I hope Dharamsala will start a new era of
being forthright in it’s diplomatic communication."

Then I saw this UNI report dated 15 September (a
day earlier than the AFP report). "Obama should
first meet Hu Jintao then Dalai Lama: Rinpoche."
Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, Sep 15: Tibetan
Prime Minister in exile Samdhong Rinpoche today
said US President Barack Obama should first meet
Chinese President Hu Jintao and then the Dalai
Lama as cordial relations between the US and
China is very important" President Obama should
not irritate Chinese leadership. China’s most
irritation is with His Holiness wherever he goes.
So, this I think is common sense. Obama should
have good relations with the Chinese leadership,"
Prof Rinpoche told a team of visiting media persons here.

It struck me that if Rinpoche was so concerned
about not irritating the Chinese leadership, and
this concern was just "common sense," wouldn’t it
make even more common sense for Obama not meet
The Dalai Lama at all, which should make the Chinese feel calm and serene?

To perhaps demonstrate that he, Samdhong Rinpoche
was doing his personal best not to irritate China
he remarked towards the end of the interview that
"Tibet will always remain an internal issue of Peoples Republic of China."

What on earth was going on in Dharamshala in
mid-September? Did Rinpoche give different
interviews to different journalists, or did he
somehow manage to make absolutely contradictory
statements at the same press conference without
any of the journalists present noticing?
Schizophrenia is sometimes defined as the
capacity of a person to hold conflicting points
of view at the same time, but I think in this
case we may have something more symptomatic of a
moral than a psychological failing.

Quite a few Tibetans (especially some dharma
centre lamas) affect a fashionable
pseudo-sophistication to demonstrate how they are
above old-fashioned nation-state politics. It
also probably helps to ingratiate themselves with
their New Age sponsors and followers. It goes
something like this. Freedom for Tibetans is all
well and good but there are greater global
concerns such as world peace, the environment,
and even providing "spiritual guidance" to the
Chinese people. Samdhong Rinpoche, in an
interview in The New York Times, said that the
last concern was more important than Tibetan
independence, or "political separation from China" as he put it.

Rinpoche’s New Age leftist outlook is fairly
discernible in his interviews and talks. Still, I
was somewhat taken aback by Rinpoche’s attack on
the American military-industrial complex (I am
not kidding) in his opening statement at the
panel discussion on Kalon Tripa Elections in
Dharamshala on June 21 this year, that I
mentioned in two of my previous postings. It
didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows among the
audience, but I suppose his followers accept this
in the sense that Rinpoche being a "rinpoche" has
a vision of the ultimate big picture, which us
"grey" (kyau) folks don’t. Hence one didn’t
question such utterances, no matter how weird.
Even a statement as damaging to the survival of
the Tibetan people, as Rinpoche’s declaration
that the new Chinese railroad would benefit the
Tibetan people and their economic welfare, should not be questioned.

In the interview with UNI, Rinpoche made this
claim (which I think is absolutely untrue) that
even for the Dalai Lama the Tibetan issue was not
a primary concern. Rinpoche said that during any
meeting with any president or world leader
"...the Dalai Lama would first focus on human
values, second on religious harmony and then
Tibetan Issue which is his third priority with
whomsoever he meets in the world be it President
Obama, a small child or a beggar in street."

I suppose for someone who considers the
destruction of Tibetan civilization, the murder
and oppression of its people and the ecocidal
exploitation of its land a third priority in his
scheme of things, it  probably explains why
Rinpoche has regularly objected to Tibetan
activists demonstrating against China. It also
explains why Rinpoche was seen on European TV, in
2006, as one of the leaders of a major
demonstration against the Swiss company SYNGENTA
in India, a major agri-business company that Indian environmentalists oppose.
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