‘Centre nixed Dalai Lama-Xi Jinping meeting’

‘Centre nixed Dalai Lama-Xi Jinping meeting’

Book by NDTV journalist Sonia Singh claims the Chinese President had agreed to the proposal during India visit.

New Delhi’s disapproval of a possible meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in September 2014 scotched plans for talks between the two leaders, the Dalai Lama said in an interview, according to a new book released.

“In 2014, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Delhi for talks with Prime Minister Modi, I requested a meeting with him. President Xi Jinping agreed, but the Indian government was cautious about the meeting, so it didn’t happen,” the Dalai Lama told NDTV journalist Sonia Singh during a formal interview in November 2018, according to the book by Ms. Singh.

When contacted Ms. Singh confirmed that the remarks had been made on record, and that neither the Centre nor the Chinese government had denied the claim thus far. A transcript of the interview had also been cleared by the Dalai Lama’s office for use in the book, the author said.

No MEA response

The MEA did not respond to a request to authenticate the Dalai Lama’s claim. However two senior government officials who were involved in the planning of the Xi visit denied knowledge of any such proposal for the leaders to meet. “The Dalai Lama’s statement doesn’t seem to be accurate. If they had wanted to meet, they would have been allowed,” said one of the officials.

The other official, who also denied that any indication had come from President Xi’s office for a possible meeting, suggested that the Dalai Lama’s emissaries had been in touch with a Hong-Kong based Chinese businessman who was believed to be influential with the Chinese government, but the meeting was never agreed upon. Both former officials requested not to be identified.

During the interview, the Dalai Lama also described his more recent relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “awkward” as a result of Mr. Modi’s desire to build good relations with China.

“It’s only natural, understandable. The China-India relationship is very important,” the Dalai Lama said.

The Dalai Lama’s claims take on a particular significance ahead of an expected visit by President Xi Jinping to India later this year for the next summit after he met PM Modi in Wuhan last year.

However, a spokesperson for the Dalai Lama declined to comment on the revelations, as well as whether the Tibetan leader would request a meeting with Mr. Xi again.

If a meeting between President Xi and the Dalai Lama had occurred in 2014, it would have been a major breakthrough in formal talks between the Tibetan leadership in exile that fled to India in 1959, and the Chinese government. The last (Ninth) round of formal talks between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government took place in January 2010, after which neither side has been able to schedule another round.

Significantly, shortly before Mr. Xi’s visit in 2014, Wu Yingjie, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party Committee for Tibet, had told The Hindu that talks with the Dalai Lama’s personal envoy were ongoing, and were discussing “his future” return to China to visit his birthplace. Back-channel talks were also confirmed by the “Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)” President Lobsang Sangay based in Dharamshala in April 2018. The former government official who spoke to The Hindu also confirmed that talks on the Dalai Lama’s return to China for a visit were taking place at the time.

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