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Nancy Pelosi’s meeting with Dalai Lama in India irks China

Beijing has reacted angrily to a US delegation visiting Dharamsala, a town in the Himalayas, to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader

A US delegation’s visit to Dharamsala, a town in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, to meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, on Tuesday triggered an angry response from Beijing.

The bipartisan delegation, led by former House Speaker and senior Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi, highlighted its support for Tibetan autonomy, which Beijing views as a threat to its sovereignty.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan government in exile, which is pushing for Tibet to be granted autonomy within China, has lived in India since the 1960s. Beijing considers the government-in-exile illegal and regards any support for the cause of Tibetan autonomy to be interference in its internal matters.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian on Tuesday said Beijing has “strong concerns” over the trip and has asked the US to “see clearly the anti-China separatism nature” of the Dalai Lama and his followers. The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi also issued a message, asking the US to “fully recognize the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai group” and “honor the commitments the US has made to China on issues related to Xizang.”

Despite China’s protest, the delegation visited the Dalai Lama’s residence in McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday.

Republican Michael McCaul, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who was part of the delegation, told media outlets that US President Joe Biden would soon sign a bill that aims to pressure China to resolve the Tibet dispute, according to The Hindustan Times.

A day earlier, McCaul told media that the delegation would discuss “many things,” including the bill passed by the US Congress earlier this month calling on Beijing to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The bipartisan legislation called ‘The Resolve Tibet Act‘ aims to “enhance US support” for Tibet and “promote dialogue” between China and the Dalai Lama toward a “peaceful resolution of the long-standing dispute.”

During the meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi lashed out at Chinese leader Xi Jinping, saying “You, the president of China (Xi Jinping), you’ll be gone and no one will give you credit for anything.” She contrasted Xi’s legacy with the Dalai Lama’s, asserting that the latter’s will “live forever.”

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Pelosi had also visited India in 2017 to meet the Dalai Lama, prompting a similar protest from Beijing.

The US delegation featuring Pelosi is reminiscent of another controversy she triggered in Asia, in 2022, when she visited Taiwan as the speaker of the US House of Representatives – despite warnings from both Beijing and the Biden administration against such a move. China responded by announcing military exercises and warned that the visit had “a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations.”

Meanwhile, Washington has vowed to provide the island with the means to defend itself, and has supplied Taipei with defensive weaponry. Earlier this week, the US approved the $360 million sale of more than 1,000 small armed drones to Taiwan.

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