U.S. Charge d’Affaires Atul Keshap, the senior diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in India, met last week with a representative of Tibet’s exile government, disregarding Chinese protests that the meeting represents interference in China’s internal affairs.
The Aug. 10 meeting with Ngodup Dongchung—a representative of the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)—followed an earlier meeting in July between Dongchung and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The CTA representative and Atul Keshap, now named as the new U.S. ambassador to India, had met briefly during the July 28 meeting with Blinken, Dongchung told RFA.
“This time we went to welcome Ambassador Keshap in his new post in New Delhi,” Dongchung said.
“We had a great conversation with the ambassador where he assured us that the U.S. supports Tibet’s religious freedom and the preservation of Tibet’s cultural and linguistic identities and respects the Dalai Lama’s vision for the equal rights of all people,” he said.
“He also asked about His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s health,” he said.
Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet into India with thousands of his followers amid a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, and has lived in exile in India ever since.
The Chinese Embassy in India on Aug. 11 slammed Dongchung’s meeting with Keshap, calling it “a provocative act” and saying “Tibetan affairs are purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference.”
“Cordial meetings that take place in a free and democratic country do not need anybody’s approval,” Dongchung said, adding, “These accusations of ‘interfering in China’s internal affairs,' and calling these meetings a ‘separatist act’ are baseless, and no one should pay any attention to them.”
Delivering on promises
The recent series of U.S. contacts with the CTA shows that President Joe Biden is delivering on his campaign promises regarding Tibet, said Tenzin Lhadon, a research fellow at the Dharamshala, India-based Tibet Policy Institute, speaking to RFA in an earlier report.
“President Joe Biden said that if elected, his administration will meet with the Dalai Lama and work on resolving the Tibetan issue, as mandated by last year’s Tibet Policy and Support Act 2020,” Lhadon said.
“I think this visit reassures us of the Biden administration’s commitment to the Tibetan issue," he said.
The Tibetan Policy Support Act of 2020 affirms as U.S. policy the right of Tibetans to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose advancing age has underscored uncertainties in recent years over his possible successor.
Beijing claims the right to name the Dalai Lama’s successor, while the 86-year-old spiritual leader himself says that any future Dalai Lama will be born outside of territory controlled by China.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.