Obama`s China: Money talks

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 12:06 hrs

While the controversy over the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang still rages in India, another visit has received rather low media coverage.

The US President Barack Obama's emissary, Valerie Jarrett flew to Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh where she called on the Dalai Lama. Jarrett, a Senior Obama`s Advisor and an Assistant for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison was accompanied by Maria Otero, Under Secretary in the State Department and the Special Coordinator-designate for Tibetan issues. The fact that Ms Otero is only a designate-Coordinator more than 9 months after President Obama assumed office as the President of the United States shows the little importance given to Tibet.

According to the press release from the Dalai Lama`s Private Office, Ms Jarrett `conveyed the [US] President`s greetings to His Holiness and informed him that she was sent to brief him about the Obama Administration`s approach to the Tibetan issue.`

After the Dalai Lama gave his assessment on the current relations between Dharamsala and Beijing, Jarrett talked about `the best way the United States could assist in the resolution for the Tibetan issue, particularly in the light of the first visit by President Obama to China in November.`

Here is the trick.

Obama decides not to offend the Chinese leadership two months before his visit to Beijing; but as it does not befit a great champion of oppressed people to refuse to meet with the Tibetan leader during his forthcoming to the United States, he preempts critics by rushing the two ladies to `brief` the Dalai Lama and explain the situation.

Even though the US President's Envoys said that Obama could meet the Dalai Lama at a later date, the present move is called kowtowing in Chinese.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it: `The Obama Administration may think its decision to cold shoulder the Dalai Lama on the Tibetan leader's upcoming trip to Washington is smart politics. But if the leader of the free world doesn't stand up for religious freedom, who will? The news broke earlier this week when an Obama aide told the Tibetans that the President wants to meet Chinese leaders before he meets the Dalai Lama. This is par for the course for an Administration that gave only lackluster support to Iran's democrats and has made conciliatory overtures to Putin's Russia and Kim Jong Il's North Korea.`

Obama`s advisors will learn one day that it is not smart policy to kowtow to a totalitarian regime like Beijing. Even the habitually back-bending Indian diplomats know this very simple truth. 

When Chhime Chhoekyapa, the Dalai Lama`s Secretary, announced the Tibetan leader`s plans to visit the State of Arunachal Pradesh during the second week of November, the Indian officials were in two minds, especially after the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu categorically stated: `We firmly oppose the Dalai [Lama] visiting the so-called Arunachal Pradesh`.

The question was `should India appease China and accept Beijing`s diktat?` Jiang Yu had also stated that the visit `further reveals the Dalai clique's anti-China and separatist essence`. South Block remained firm. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said that the Tibetan leader could go anywhere in India: `Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India and the Dalai Lama is free to go anywhere in India.`

Contrary to the relatively new team of Barak Obama, the 'old China hands' in Delhi are aware that if you once accept a 'protest' from Beijing, there will be no limit to new demands or complaints. India has experienced this when the Indian Prime Minister visited Arunachal, with any new infrastructure development in the State or with deployment of armed forces.

Though Washington does not have the same stakes and compulsions as Delhi, the US has remained active in the Tibetan issue in the past, trying to promote contacts, if not negotiations, between Dharamsala and Beijing.

Under Section 611 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, 2003 (Tibetan Policy Act of 2002), a report on the state of the negotiations between Dharamsala and Beijing has to be regularly presented by the White House to the US Congress.

According to the 2007 Report: `The Dalai Lama can be a constructive partner as China deals with the difficult challenges of regional and national stability. He represents the views of the vast majority of Tibetans and his moral authority helps to unite the Tibetan community inside and outside of China. China's engagement with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve problems facing Tibetans is in the interest of both the Chinese Government and the Tibetan people. At the same time, the lack of resolution of these problems leads to greater tensions inside China and will be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States and other nations.`

The last US Administration, though not appreciated for its policies (and actions) in world affairs,  regularly raised the Tibet issue with the Chinese leadership. Unfortunately, when Hillary Clinton went to China soon after taking up her job as Secretary of State, she did not utter a word about Human Rights or Tibet; a great change from the Bush Administration.

The 2007 US Report explained that since he assumed Office in January 2001, President Bush had consistently urged the Chinese Government `to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and to respect the unique cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage of the Tibetan people`.

President Bush received the Dalai Lama at the White House on November 9, 2005,  The President is said to have reiterated the strong US commitment “to support the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans". Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Paula Dobriansky, the then Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues attended the meeting.

The report also asserted that during a visit to China in November 2005, President Bush urged President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He is supposed to have specifically told the Chinese leaders: 'It would be wise for the Chinese government to invite the Dalai Lama to China so that he can tell them exactly what he told [the President] in the White House... that he has no desire for an independent Tibet.'

According to the same Report, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice `consistently raised the issues of human rights and religious freedom at the highest levels, including in meetings with the Chinese President, Premier, State Counselor, and Foreign Minister.` She is said to have regularly highlighted the need of progress in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and to have encouraged the Beijing leadership to work with the United States `toward a resolution of some of the structural issues in human rights and religious freedom` in China and in particular, `reach out to the Dalai Lama, a man who is, for Tibet, a man of considerable authority and considerable moral authority, but who really is of no threat to China.`

In October 2007, when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour the legislature can bestow, President Bush and his wife attended the event by the side of Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. A few months later when she visited Dharamsala, Pelosi affirmed: "The United States must continue to be committed to meeting the challenge that Tibet makes to the conscience of the world.`

It seems that the Obama`s Administration, which has been elected to 'change' the US and the world, is not aware of this very basic notion. Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan Prime Minister rightly laments: `Even the US government is doing some kind of appeasement... today economic interests are much greater than other interests.`

Money makes the world go round, like it always did. So where's the Change?

Also read: How China plans to split India  |  Video: China opposes Dalai Lama's Arunachal visit | Obama 'Middle Way' on Tibet under scrutiny 
| Tibet is not China's 'internal affair'  | More articles by Claude Arpi

Born in Angouleme, France, Claude Arpi's real quest began 36 years ago with a journey to the Himalayas. Since then he has been an enthusiastic student of the history of Tibet, China and the subcontinent. He is the author of numerous English and French books including. His book,
Tibet: the lost Frontier (Lancers Publishers) was released recently.



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