October 5, 2009

No time for the Dalai Lama

Who remembers how, on the last January 17th, the Dalai Lama greeted the outgoing President of the U.S., George W Bush? He chose these words: “I love President George W Bush.” Leaving the audience stunned—he was delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture in New Delhi—the Tibetan spiritual leader recalled how he and the then US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting. Of course he was well aware that in his most recent visit to Washington, in 2007, George W Bush was the first American president to meet him in public in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

But times have changed, and much water has flowed under the bridge since then. In fact, now His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, who is in Washington these days after a long tour through North America, for the first time since 1991 won’t be welcomed by the U.S. President. Why? Because the White House has preferred not to have Barack Obama meet him now in order not to damage relations between China and the U.S. ahead of Obama’s visit to China in November.

Well, this is precisely what is called “realpolitik” in international affairs. And yet, in my humble opinion, at this stage two questions, at least, arise spontaneously: “Is this the America that the Founding Fathers would have wanted?” And “Is this the America that Obama wants?” Or, more pragmatically, along with Frank Wolf, a Republican member of Congress involved in the fight for human rights, we might ask ourselves, “What would a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun in Drapchi prison think when he heard that President Obama, the president of the United States, is not going to meet with the Dalai Lama?” In China, Wolf added, “It’s against the law to even have a picture of the Dalai Lama. I can almost hear the words of the Chinese guards saying to them that nobody cares about you in the United States.” Of course, this is an exaggeration, but..