US envoy meets Dalai Lama to discuss "important issues"

US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer, who is on a two-day visit to Dharamsala, the administrative capital of Tibetan exiles around the world in north India,

Dharamsala, Feb 22: US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer, who is on a two-day visit here, held a closed-door talks with the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama here this morning.

The meeting, which took place at the official residence of the Tibetan leader at around 10 a.m, lasted for about an hour.

Talking to journalists after the meeting, Roemer described the meeting with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, the seat of Tibet’s Government in exile, as being “the first time in many years” by a US ambassador and said they held “very good discussion” about “several important issues”.

“I come here to this great place to meet with this very respected and holy man, and as a spiritual and religious leader in the world on a trail of many other high-level United States officials who have come up here to show their respect to His Holiness,” Roemer said.

“And we continue to have this very productive and engaging and very fruitful dialogue in the months and in the years to come,” he added.

When asked what transpired during the meeting, Roemer said dialogue process between Beijing and the Tibetan leader's envoys, which after the ninth round of talks held in January last year came to a standstill, were among the “many important issues” that were discussed.

“There are many important issues to talk to His Holiness about; certainly underscored as president Obama did when (Chinese) president Hu visited the United States last month that human rights in areas of Tibet continue to be a very important issue for the United States. And also that as the president (Obama) did to president Hu, encourage the Chinese officials to continue their substandard dialogue on longstanding issues with the representatives of His Holiness. These are important issues," Roemer said. 

“You can’t spend more than a few minutes with His Holiness without talking about the environment and ecology and Tibet as a third pole of water for not just for Tibetan people, but for the world community. You know he is very passionate about those types of issues.

“The talks were most engaging and most productive” he added.

Media reports had earlier reported that rehabilitation of Tibetan exiles living in Nepal could also figure in the discussions. The Bush administration had offered to resettle as many as 5000 Tibetan exiles in the United States as part of its refugee admissions program. The program did not materialise after Nepal government refused cooperation, apparently under pressure from China.

Briefing the journalists, Roemer, however, reiterated that one of the main purposes of the visit to the Tibetan administrative capital was to formally inaugurate a new reception centre for newly arrived Tibetan refugees. 

Roemer, who arrived in Dharamsala along with his wife, inaugurated the Tibetan Reception Centre located at Khaniyara village yesterday.

Roemer said the US government has provided 60 to 65% of the total cost of the reception centre as part of its efforts to support the Tibetan refugees.

Earlier this morning, the US ambassador and his wife Sally visited the Upper Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) School, which is the largest Tibetan residential school of its kind in India.

The office of the Dalai Lama has described Roemer’s visit as being a part of periodic contacts between the US government and the Tibetan leader and has refrained from making any further comments.

As per the programme schedule made available by the Himachal Pradesh government, the US ambassador, who is treated as a state guest, will return to New Delhi later in the day.

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