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Dharamsala welcomes Dalai Lama after high-profile US visit

March 1, 2010

By Phurbu Thinley
February 27, 2010

Dharamsala, Feb 27 -- Hundreds and hundreds of
Tibetans and well-wishers holding traditional
ceremonial scarves and burning incense welcomed
His Holiness the Dalai Lama as he returned to his
exile hometown here this morning, following a
high-profile visit to United States.

The 74-year old exiled Tibetan leader arrived
from the Indian capital, New Delhi, fresh from
his 10-day U.S. visit. The Dalai Lama left
Dharamsala, his exile seat in the northern India, on Feb 16.

The Nobel Peace Laureate appeared cheerful and
constantly waved and smiled at endless queue of
well-wishers who had lined up to welcome him in
McLeod Ganj, in Upper Dharamsala, where his
official residence is located. Many of them
waited for hours before His Holiness finally arrived here.

His Holiness was received at the Gaggal Airport,
which is an hour drive from McLeod Ganj, by
senior leaders, including Prime Minister Prof.
Samdhong Rinpoche, and officials of the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile, and heads of major Tibetan non-governmental organisations.

In McLeod Ganj, Buddhist prayers flags and
Tibetan National flag were put up and auspicious
Buddhist symbols were drawn along the road
leading to His Holiness’ residence to welcome
him. Welcome gates, decked up in colourful
traditional Tibetan style with auspicious
greetings, and banners welcoming the Tibetan
leader were also put up at different points.

During the visit to U.S., despite China’s
repeated and angry protests, President Barack
Obama welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Congress
Speaker Nancy Pelosi also met His Holiness during the visit.

Not only this, one day after the meeting with
Obama the National Endowment for Democracy, which
is funded by the US Congress, gave the Dalai Lama
its prestigious Democracy Service Medal during a
ceremony at the Library of Congress in
Washington, DC, that left China all the more fuming.

Tibetans revere the Dalai Lama as their
undisputed leader and a symbol of hope of their
freedom in the world. The Dalai Lama normally
spends several months a year travelling the world
promoting human values, teaching Buddhism and,
advocating for Tibetan rights and their struggle for greater freedom.

Tibetans, whose spirits were somehow dampened by
recent failure in talks with China on the future
of their homeland, have been heartened by their
leader’s latest successful visit to US.

Talks with Beijing, which resumed last month
after a break of more than a year, once again
failed to make any breakthrough, with Tibetan
side blaming Chinese Communist leadership for
lack of any “political will” to resolve the Tibet issue peacefully.

For Tibetans, Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama
in the White House ignoring China's protests was
a symbolic victory, irrespective of its
consequences or the manner in which the meeting took place.

The US honouring even sparked celebrations by
Tibetans inside Tibet amid increased security set
up and severe restrictions on religious practice
in parts of Tibet. In some areas, Tibetans
reportedly welcomed the meeting with a defiant
show of fireworks and auspicious prayer rituals.

China had reacted angrily on the Obama-Dalai Lama
meeting by accusing the US of "seriously
undermining" bilateral ties by "conniving" with separatist forces.

The Tibetan leader enjoys widespread support in
the United States and Obama already postponed the
meeting with Dalai Lama once, angering powerful
U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups.

Every U.S. president for the last two decades has
met with the Dalai Lama, and those visits are
considered by Tibetans powerful signs of the
American commitment to Tibet issue and human rights in general.

Obama used his first presidential meeting with
the Dalai Lama on Feb 18 to press China to
preserve Tibetan identity and to respect human
rights in the region, which has been under brutal
Chinese occupation since 1950.

Dalai Lama has said he had met with the President
because "it was my duty to inform or report what
the situation was in the relationship with the Chinese government."

While in US, Dalai Lama also urged Americans to
keep pushing for freedom and democracy in other lands.

In 2007, when the Dalai Lama was presented with
the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S.
President George W Bush, it had lead to
unprecedented celebrations of victory by Tibetans
and their supporters around the world.

At the time also a grand and imposing ceremonial
welcome marked the Dalai Lama’s arrival here in
Dharamsala after he returned receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.
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