While on tour in Asia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met this Wednesday (28) with a representative of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, in New Delhi, India, in a move likely to elicit a stronger reaction from from China.
According to the spokesperson for the department headed by Blinken, the US foreign minister had a brief interview with Ngodup Dongchung, who is the representative of the Tibetan Central Administration (ACT), also known as the Tibetan government in exile. . The subject of the conversation was not disclosed.
In 1950, Chinese troops took control of Tibet in what Beijing describes as “peaceful liberation.” In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after a failed revolt against Chinese rule. For the regime, Tibet is part of China and the Dalai Lama is a dangerous separatist.
Last week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. It was the first visit by a President of the People’s Republic of China to the region, seen as a celebration of two important dates for the regime: the 70th anniversary of the signing of the 17-Point Accord, a document which confirms Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, and 100 years since the first congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
As of Wednesday morning, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had made no public comment on the meeting between Blinken and Dongchung, the most important since the Dalai Lama met then-President Barack Obama in Washington in 2016.
ACT and Tibet’s advocacy groups have received a surge of international support in recent months amid growing criticism and allegations of human rights violations by China.
In November last year, Lobsang Sangay, a former Tibetan leader, visited the White House in what was the first such visit in six decades. A month later, the US Congress passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which claims the right of Tibetans to choose the Dalai Lama’s successor and calls for the establishment of a US consulate in Lhasa.
Blinken, on his first visit to India since joining Joe Biden’s government, also met with his Indian counterpart Chancellor Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and other Indian officials before meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is expected that the meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, will have on the agenda the provision of vaccines against Covid-19, the security situation in Afghanistan and the history of human rights in India.
In a conversation with a group of civil society leaders at a hotel in New Delhi, Blinken said the relationship between the United States and India was “one of the most important in the world.”
“The Indian people and the American people believe in human dignity and equality of opportunity, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief,” Blinken said in what was considered a thinly veiled criticism of the Modi government.
“These are the fundamental principles of democracies like ours. And, of course, our democracies are under construction. Among friends, we talk about it. Sometimes this process is painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but the strength of democracy is to accept it. that, ”added the American diplomat.
Modi is accused of suppressing dissidents and opponents and of creating divisive policies to appeal to his Hindu nationalist base and alienate the Muslim religious minority in India.
For analysts, former President Donald Trump ignored Modi’s excesses. Biden, for his part, has placed at the center of his foreign policy the formation of an alliance of democracies against the “autocracy” embodied, according to him, by China.
What the Indian government is asking for in return is the same support Trump gave the country during last year’s clashes between India and China on the Himalayan border.
“If Biden’s United States is reluctant to openly support India against China, how can India be expected to work with the United States to oppose China? have reciprocity, ”said Brahma Chellaney, professor at the Center for Policy Research in China. Delhi, to the AFP news agency.
Afghanistan is another pressing issue for Washington. The U.S. government is hoping India will play a more active role in stabilizing the war-torn country, with Biden vowing to stand down and bring back all of his troops before the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Indian government, which is one of the biggest backers of the Afghan government, however, fears that with the withdrawal of American troops, the Taliban will take back command of the country and make it a refuge for extremists who oppose New Delhi.