- Wed, 09/16/2009 - 12:00
By Penny MacRae
Sept 15, 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.
Every US president since George H.W. Bush in 1991 has met the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a wide US following. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was reportedly hoping to see Obama in the United States.
"A lot of nations are adopting a policy of appeasement," Rinpoche told a group of journalists late Tuesday.
He was speaking in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala, which has been home to the government-in-exile since the Dalai Lama fled to India 50 years ago after China crushed an uprising in Tibet.
"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.
Analysts say a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama before the US president's maiden trip to Beijing in November would be sure to spark an angry response from China.
It would potentially undermine Obama's hopes of building stronger ties with China, they say.
On Monday, the Dalai Lama's office said in a statement the spiritual leader was "looking forward to meeting President Obama after his visit to China".
The statement came after a US delegation visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala on Monday to brief him about US policy on Tibet.
The US team, led by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, was the most senior group of American officials to travel to Dharamshala since March 2008, when Tibet was swept by a wave of unrest.
China considers the Dalai Lama a "splittist," despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet, and has stepped up pressure on world leaders, including Obama, not to meet him.
On Tuesday China criticised the US delegation's visit, saying Beijing opposed any meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign officials, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.
Rinpoche said no meeting with Obama had been fixed. He said he understood why Obama was not meeting the Dalai Lama before his Chinese trip, calling it "common sense".
Obama should "not irritate the Chinese leadership.
"China's (greatest) irritation is His Holiness, wherever he goes," Rinpoche said.
Beijing strongly opposed a visit by the Dalai Lama to Taiwan earlier this month and warned of a setback in ties between the mainland and Taiwan.
The Dalai Lama is also courting controversy with a plan to visit the disputed northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in November.
Beijing claims a large swathe of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory and Indian media have lately reported incursions by Chinese soldiers along the border.
Rinpoche said the trip to the border state was "absolutely religious" and noted the Dalai Lama had visited it in the past.
"India is a sovereign independent nation and people living in the country have every right to go where they wish in India," he said.
Indian analysts say allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh would reaffirm India's claim to the state.