• Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Top US Congressional team in India soon to strengthen ties, meet Dalai Lama

The delegation, which will include former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, will meet the 14th Dalai Lama, Indian government officials, and representatives of US businesses in the country.

The Dalai Lama (R) and the former speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in Washington Dc in June 2016. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

A POWERFUL bipartisan US congressional delegation, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaulis, is visiting India to strengthen bilateral ties and to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

The delegation includes former US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Gregory W Meeks, House Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific ranking member Ami Bera, and Congressman Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Nicole Malliotakis.

In India, the delegation will meet the 14th Dalai Lama, Indian government officials, and representatives of US businesses in the country.

“India is the world’s largest democracy and an important strategic partner of the United States,” said McCaul.

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“I look forward to meeting with government officials and the American business community to learn how we can continue to strengthen our relationship with India,” he said.

“I am also honoured to have the opportunity to meet with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Tibetans are a democracy-loving people who wish to practice their religion freely. This visit should highlight the bipartisan support in the US Congress for Tibet to have a say in their own future,” McCaul said.

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Ranking member Meeks said he was looking forward to joining Chairman McCaul and Pelosi to demonstrate the strong bipartisan support for the US-India relationship.

“Over the past 25 years, our relationship with India has transformed to become one of the United States most consequential. I’m also honoured to have a chance to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to hear his views on how the American People can help advance the Tibetan people’s struggle for autonomy,” he said.

The US statement did not mention the dates of the visit.

However, authoritative sources in New Delhi said on Friday (14) that the delegation would be in Dharamsala in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based, on June 18 and 19.

After a failed anti-Chinese uprising in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and came to India where he set up the government-in-exile. He stepped down as the political head of the Tibetan government-in-exile in 2011.

The visit of the influential US lawmakers to the Himalayan town is taking place ahead of the Dalai Lama’s planned trip to the US for medical treatment. Tibet’s government-in-exile in Dharamshala represents over 100,000 Tibetans living in around 30 countries.

The US has strongly been supporting the Tibetan cause and condemning all oppression and coercion of Tibetans by China. The US Congress this month passed a legislation calling for a peaceful resolution of the dispute over the status and governance of Tibet.

The ‘Resolve Tibet Act’ also calls on Beijing to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama. American lawmakers have regularly been visiting Dharamsala in reflection of Washington’s support of the Tibetan cause.

From 2002 to 2010, the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government held nine rounds of dialogue that did not produce any concrete outcomes. No formal talks have been held since then. In its talks with China between 2002 and 2010, the Tibetan side pitched genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people in line with the Dalai Lama’s middle-way policy.

The Dalai Lama has been favouring resolution of the Tibetan issue through dialogue. In April, the Sikyong or political head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Penpa Tsering said his administration has opened back-channel talks with Beijing to explore ways to find a resolution to the Tibet issue.

The remarks were seen as signs of willingness by both sides to re-engage over a decade after the formal dialogue process hit a dead end in view of anti-China protests in Tibet and Beijing’s hardline approach towards the Buddhist region. Days after Tsering’s comments, Beijing asserted it would talk only with the representatives of the Dalai Lama and not with the government-in-exile.

China has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him a divisive figure. However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but “genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet” under the “Middle-Way approach”.

Relations between the two sides strained further due to protests against China in Tibetan areas in 2008.

(With PTI inputs)

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