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Obama's Meeting With the Dalai Lama Is Delayed

The Dalai Lama, shown Saturday in Montreal, will be in Washington this week. It will be his first visit since 1991 in which he has not met with the president.
The Dalai Lama, shown Saturday in Montreal, will be in Washington this week. It will be his first visit since 1991 in which he has not met with the president. (By Ryan Remiorz -- Associated Press)
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"We've got the classic case of a Western government yet again conceding to Chinese pressure that is imaginary long after that Chinese pressure has ceased to exist," said Robert Barnett, a Tibetan expert at Columbia University. "The Chinese must be falling over themselves with astonishment at what Western diplomats will give them without being asked. I don't know what the poker analogy would be. 'Please, see all my cards and take my money, too?' "

In August, Tibetan representatives laid out the issue for the Dalai Lama. There were dangers if he gave in to American pressure, the Asian diplomat said. One, it "could set a precedent and make China feel even more arrogant than it already is," the diplomat said. Two, it could make it more difficult for the Dalai Lama to meet with the heads of state of other countries. China has launched a worldwide effort to stop heads of state from hosting the Tibetan leader. The Dalai Lama is to travel to New Zealand and Australia later this year and has yet to secure a commitment from their leaders to meet. "A lot of smaller countries will have the best excuse," he said. "They'll say, 'Give us a break. How about the big United States?' "

Finally, Tibetan officials worried about how Chinese authorities would portray the victory in China. "They would obviously tell the people of Tibet that His Holiness was rejected in Washington," the Asian diplomat said.

Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama relented, the Asian diplomat said. "He said work with the Americans," the diplomat said. "He did not want to irritate them."

Official Response

In late August, Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's representative in Washington, met with Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser and assistant to Obama, before she traveled to Dharmsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Gyari tried again to persuade the administration to accept a meeting in October.

It didn't work. A second senior administration official pointed to Jarrett's visit to Dharmsala as a sign of how much Obama cares about Tibet.

Jarrett met with the Dalai Lama on Sept. 13 and 14. The office of the Dalai Lama issued a positive statement about the meeting. In the third paragraph from the bottom was the sentence: "His Holiness is looking forward to meeting President Obama after his visit to China." The operative word was "after."


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