Dalai Lama Meets U.S. Officials

Tibet's spiritual leader stresses 'Middle Way' for greater autonomy at talks.
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Valerie Jarrett (center) and Maria Otero (right), meet with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, Sept. 14, 2009.
Valerie Jarrett (center) and Maria Otero (right), meet with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, Sept. 14, 2009.
Photo appears courtesy of the Dalai Lama's office

The Dalai Lama has held talks with officials from U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and underlined his commitment to a "Middle Way" approach to securing greater autonomy for Tibet.

The meeting between Tibet's spiritual leader, currently on a U.S. tour, and Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and the State Department's special coordinator on Tibetan Issues Maria Otero was held in Atlanta on Oct 18.

It was the first high-level U.S. government discussions held directly with the exiled Dalai Lama since February 2010 when he met with Obama at the White House.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was a "private meeting on issues of mutual interest," but the Dalai Lama's special envoy explained that the leader reiterated his commitment to his "Middle Way approach of working nonviolently to resolve the issue of Tibet."

"Support for his efforts from the United States has been critical at many levels and His Holiness was very pleased to hear again from Under Secretary Otero that the Obama administration [supports] his Middle Way approach," said envoy Lodi Gyari, according to a statement by the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

'Genuine' autonomy

The essence of the Middle Way approach is to secure "genuine autonomy" for the Tibetan people within the scope of China's constitution, the statement said.

Gyari said the U.S. relationship with the Dalai Lama "is a long one, and it continues on track," according to the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, which works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet.

"His Holiness welcomed the opportunity to again share his views on the situation in Tibet with Under Secretary Otero, including restating his commitment to a peaceful resolution of issues through dialogue with Chinese government."

The Dalai Lama's side has held nine rounds of talks with the Chinese leadership since 2002 to work out a mutually beneficial solution to the Tibetan issue.

His envoys presented a comprehensive "Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People" to Beijing two years ago, including specific needs for autonomy and self-government.

Doubts on autonomy memo

Beijing expressed doubts about the "spirit" of the memorandum and the envoys clarified some of the fundamental issues raised in the memorandum at the last round of talks.

"We strongly support dialogue between China's representatives and of the Dalai Lama to resolve this crisis," the State Department official said, pointing out that the U.S. considers Tibet part of China.

China reviles the Dalai Lama, who fled Lhasa in 1959 as China crushed an abortive uprising, as a "separatist." He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

In Atlanta, the Dalai Lama also visited Emory University, home to the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, now in its third year.

The program is working on a science curriculum for Buddhist monks and nuns in India.

Reported in Washington by Parameswaran Ponnudurai





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