Pelosi’s backing of Dalai Lama boosts Tibetan morale

March 21st, 2008 - 7:24 pm ICT by admin  

(Third Lead)
By Baldev S. Chauhan
Dharamsala, March 21 (IANS) US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi Friday came out strongly in support of the Dalai Lama and asked China to allow independent monitoring of the situation in troubled Tibet. Taking a hard line, Pelosi also sought an independent probe into allegations by Beijing that the Dalai Lama, who she described “an epitome of non-violence”, was to blame for the worst violence in two decades in Tibet that has left many dead.

“An independent outside investigation should be ordered into allegations by China that the Dalai Lama, an epitome of non-violence, was behind the violence in Tibet,” Pelosi, 67, told reporters after a meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The visit has given a big boost to the morale of the Tibetan government-in-exile headquartered here, with its officials saying Pelosi is perhaps the most high profile politician to have visited Dharamsala.

Pelosi flew into this northern Indian hill town overlooked by snow covered Himalayan ranges to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader whose government-in-exile is based here. Nine US Congressmen accompanied her.

She received a rousing welcome from hundreds of Tibetans, whose despite decades of Chinese Communist rule continue to have great respect for the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Attacking Beijing’s “repressive regime”, she said: “China must allow journalists and other monitors to enter Tibet and see for themselves what the situation is inside Tibet.

“The US is for encouraging a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Beijing. China should engage in high-level dialogues.

“I am here to support the Dalai Lama on behalf of the people of the United States,” she added, to cheering and clapping by monks, many of who waved the US and Tibetan flags.

Pelosi, a long-time supporter of the Tibetan cause, is the first major official to visit the Dalai Lama since protests in Tibet starting March 10 turned violent last week.

Dressed in a pastel green suit, the elegant, wiry and tall Pelosi at one point held the Dalai Lama’s hands as she walked with him at McLeod Ganj, the seat of the Tibetan leader and known as Little Lhasa.

Earlier, before greeting the Dalai Lama with folded hands, Pelosi described the situation in Tibet as “a challenge to the consciousness of the world”.

In comments signalling strong US support for the Tibetan cause, she said: “If we don’t talk for Tibet today, we have lost our moral right to talk for human rights.”

The Pelosi-Dalai Lama meeting is seen as a bid to exert pressure on Beijing, which Friday accepted that anti-China protests had spread to other parts from Lhasa and that it had used force to suppress the rioters.

Chinese authorities say around 15 people have died in the violence. But Tibetan exiles put the death toll at close to 100.

“The Tibet situation is a challenge to the consciousness of the world. The US shares a great relationship with Tibet and this relationship goes far behind.

“It is in our fate to help the people of Tibet and so we all must talk for Tibet. Thank you (the Tibetans) for the courage you give us,” she said.

An influential Democrat leader, Pelosi made history last year when she became the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives.

She was a prime mover in the decision last year to honour the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal, a top US civilian honour. China protested against the move.

Pelosi’s visit to Dharamsala, about 400 km from New Delhi, comes at a time when China has blamed “the Dalai clique” for “organised and pre-mediated violence” in Lhasa.

Overwhelmed by this show of solidarity from US politicians, hundreds of exiled Tibetans lined both sides of the winding mountain road leading to the Dalai Lama’s temple here.

The crowd included schoolchildren and old monks and nuns among others. They held up signs that said, “Long Live US-Tibet Friendship” and “Thank You For Your Support”.

The waiting crowd cheered and clapped for several minutes when the Congressmen arrived. Many were seen waving the American flag on a pleasant spring morning.

The Dalai Lama welcomed Pelosi by garlanding her with the traditional Tibetan golden scarf while the nine Congressmen were presented starched white mufflers.

Amid growing unease over China’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this week called on Beijing to open talks with the Dalai Lama.

She renewed a US appeal for China to show restraint in Tibet, saying there was a “terrible situation” in the region.

The Dalai Lama favours autonomy for Tibet, having long given up calls for independence from China. But Beijing has shown no eagerness to engage the Dalai Lama in negotiations.

India is also home to some 100,000 Tibetan exiles, many of who fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama.

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