US envoy meets Dalai, invites him to visit America

US envoy meets Dalai, invites him to visit America

Even as New Delhi has been toeing a cautious line on the Dalai Lama to avoid annoying Beijing, the US ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, met the Tibetan spiritual leader on Friday.

Juster travelled to the headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration (commonly known as Tibetan Government-in-Exile or TGIE) at Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh and called on Dalai Lama on Friday.

He also had meetings with Lobsang Sangey, the political leader of the exiled community and the current Sikyong (or President) of the TGIE.

A report on the official website of the TGIE said Juster requested the Dalai Lama to visit the US again. The TGIE also published pictures of the meeting online.

Juster, meanwhile, tweeted a picture of himself and Sangay.

An icon of the Tibetan community’s struggle against China’s rule over their country, the 82-year-old Dalai Lama has already visited the US several times, the last of which was in June 2017.

The Tibet Sun, a news website, reported that the US envoy had been asked by journalists in Dharamshala if American President Donald Trump would meet the Dalai Lama if he visited Washington.

Juster did not rule out such a possibility and just said, “Well, again, we will see what happens in time”, the website reported.

Former US president Barack Obama met Dalai Lama four times during his stint, with each meeting triggering angry reactions from China.

China's protests

Beijing calls Dalai Lama a "splittist" and has been accusing him of leading a secessionist movement to undermine the sovereignty of China.

Beijing, in April 2017, strongly criticised India for facilitating the Dalai Lama’s visits to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which is very close to the disputed boundary between the two nations.

The US Senate on April 26 passed a resolution urging China to respect human rights and the religious freedom of the people of Tibet. This prompted Beijing to cry foul and accuse the US of interfering in the internal affairs of China.

The meeting between Dalai Lama and the US envoy took place just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had an informal summit at Wuhan in central China to mend the ties between New Delhi and Beijing.

In the run-up to the Modi-Xi informal summit, New Delhi had been very careful on the Tibet issue.

New Delhi on February 26 issued an advisory asking “senior leaders” and “government functionaries” in the states as well as at the Centre to stay away from events attended by Dalai Lama. The advisory was issued after the Ministry of External Affairs pointed it out that the time chosen by the TGIE to hold the “Thank You, India” event would be “very sensitive” for India’s relations with China. 

The venue of the event was then shifted from New Delhi to Dharamshala and was held on March 31.

But in the wake of speculation over a change in New Delhi’s approach to Tibet, the Modi government sent the Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav to represent India in the event, where they shared a podium with the Dalai Lama.