For the first time since 1991, the Dalai Lama will visit Washington this week and not meet with the president as the US has delayed a meeting in an attempt to gain favour with China, according to the Washington Post.
US pressured Tibetan representatives to postpone the meeting between the Tibetan spiritual leader and President Barack Obama until after Obama's summit next month with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, the influential US daily reported Monday citing diplomats, government officials and other sources familiar with the talks.
Since 1991, the Dalai Lama has been here 10 times. Most times the meetings have been 'drop-in' visits at the White House.
The last time he was here, in 2007, however, George W. Bush became the first sitting president to meet with him publicly, at a ceremony at the Capitol in which he awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest civilian award.
The US decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedalling criticism of China's human rights and financial policies as well as backing efforts to elevate China's position in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the Post said.
Obama administration officials have termed the new policy 'strategic reassurance', which entails the US government taking steps to convince China that it is not out to contain the emerging Asian power, it said.
In explaining their reluctance to meet the Dalai Lama now, US officials told Tibetan representatives that they wanted to work with China on critical issues, including nuclear weapons proliferation in North Korea and Iran, the Post said citing an unnamed Asian diplomat with direct knowledge of the talks.
The Post also cited US officials as saying they are not pulling punches with the Chinese. They have, however, indicated that they want to try something new on Tibet, figuring that the old policy - of meeting with the Dalai Lama regularly and calling for substantive talks between China and his representatives - had achieved little.
American officials told Tibetan representatives that 'this president is not interested in symbolism or photo ops but in deliverables', the unnamed Asian diplomat was quoted as saying.
'He wants something to come out of his efforts over Tibet, rather than just checking a box.'