Nirupama Rao begins talks with Dalai Lama

"The talks between the Dalai Lama and the officials of the external affairs ministry, including Rao, began at the official palace of the Dalai Lama at around 4.15 p.m. At the closed-door meeting, high-ranking officials of the government-in-exile including its prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche are also participating," the official said.

Officials of the external affairs ministry, however, refused to comment on the meeting and the purpose of Rao's visit. Earlier in the day, Rao reached the Gaggal airport near here at around 2.15 p.m. and headed straight to the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Her flight was late by an hour

"The flight came more than one hour behind its scheduled timing of 12.30 p.m.," an official at the airport said. At the airport, Rao refused to take questions from media persons. The Dalai Lama's office also did not comment on Rao's visit. The foreign secretary is a former Indian ambassador to China.

Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama's office, said: "Right now we are not making any comments." A source in the Dalai Lama's office said the foreign secretary would discuss issues relating to Tibetan exiles with the Nobel  Laureate. Security for the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959, would also be discussed, the source said.

Superintendent of Police Atul Fulzele told IANS that the Tibetan government has made arrangements for Rao's stay at McLeodganj. She would leave for Delhi on Sunday afternoon. The Dalai Lama, who believes in the "middle-path" policy that demands "greater autonomy" for the Tibetans, is viewed by the Chinese as a hostile element who is bent on splitting Tibet from China.

The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile is not recognised by any country. Some 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

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