Tibetan-Government-in-exile is hopeful of enhancing bilateral ties with the United States after the recent meeting of President Barack Obama and Dalai Lama at the White House despite warnings from Beijing that the meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader would 'seriously damage' ties with Washington.
Tibetan government in-exile spokesperson Tashi Phunstok on Tuesday said that the two leaders discussed issues related to morality and leadership, and how one can produce the new generation of ethical leaders in the 21st century. "The visit and of course the meeting of His Holiness with President Obama is a positive thing for Tibet and we are delighted with this meeting. It shows that President Obama and his administration and people of United States are supporting Tibet," said Phunstok.
The private meeting lasted about an hour, although the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was not seen by White House photographers as he entered or exited the complex. The White House sidestepped questions about whether it was worried Obama's meeting - his third with the Dalai Lama - would upset its relationship with China. Analysts said they did not foresee any serious consequences.
China calls the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet. The Dalai Lama maintains he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating violence. Human rights groups say China tramples on the rights of Tibetans and enforces its rule using brutal methods. More than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against China. Most have died.
Obama reaffirmed his support for Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions and human rights for Tibetans, the White House said in a statement. Obama also said he does not support Tibetan independence from China and the Dalai Lama said he was not seeking it, the White House said.
To encourage those talks, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said on Friday he had named one of his officials, Sarah Sewall, as a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. Sewall was sworn in on Thursday as an undersecretary responsible for human rights issues, a post which traditionally has involved work on Tibetan issues.
It was the third time Obama had met with the Dalai Lama, whom the White House calls "an internationally respected religious and cultural leader." Their previous meetings were in February 2010 and July 2011. "Dalai Lama met with President Obama last Friday. That was his third meeting with the President. Last year when Dalai Lama went to the United States, the meeting did not take place. It was because Lama did not want to inconvenience President Obama just before his scheduled visit to China," added Phunstok.
In what appeared to be a small concession to the Chinese, the visit was held in the White House Map Room, a historically important room but of less significance than the more prestigious Oval Office, where he normally meets visiting leaders. The Dalai Lama did not speak to the media after the meeting, although he did after the last time he met Obama in 2011.
A statement from the Central Tibetan Administration - the exiled Tibetan government - said it lasted almost an hour. The meeting came at a sensitive time for Sino-U.S. relations after China's increasingly assertive behaviour in the East China and South China seas. Obama has embarked on a strategic US political and security rebalancing toward Asia, in what is seen as a reaction to the growing clout of China, and as part of this strategy, he plans a week-long visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in late April.
Friday's meeting, announced with little fanfare the evening before it took place, prompted a stern rebuke from Beijing.
Previous meetings between Obama and the Dalai Lama drew similar criticism from China, but did not have serious repercussions. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands next month. The choreography of Friday's meeting - and the Chinese reaction - followed predictable patterns, said Douglas Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The Dalai Lama was not seen by the White House press corps and the White House did not give photographers access to the meeting. The White House released its own photograph of the two leaders after the meeting. It showed the Dalai Lama gesturing as he spoke to Obama.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to stay in the United States for a speaking tour lasting another two weeks. He is due back in Washington on March 07 after stops in California and Minnesota.