China Offers Direct Talks With Tibet’s Dalai Lama
China on Friday disclosed an unprecedented offer to hold direct negotiations with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader, at the time and place of his choosing.
In India, the Dalai Lama responded positively.
According to a report by the official New China News Agency, the Chinese government expressed a wish for talks if the Dalai Lama “drops the idea of an independent Tibet,” but the Tibetans did not explicitly accept this condition.
The Tibetans announced that they have appointed a six-member team to discuss Tibetan issues with the Chinese, but a site for the talks has yet to be selected.
The Chinese also said that a proposal by the Dalai Lama to transform Tibet into a self-governing political entity associated with China could not be considered as the basis for talks. The Dalai Lama made the proposal three months ago in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
However, experts on Tibet said the Chinese offer to hold talks with the Buddhist leader at the time and place of his choosing shows unprecedented flexibility by the Chinese.
There was speculation in Beijing that the Chinese may be trying to defuse tensions just a few days before the anniversaries of anti-Chinese demonstrations in Tibet last fall that resulted in a number of deaths.
The New China News Agency said the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi conveyed the offer for negotiations to the Dalai Lama’s representative there.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese crushed a revolt. He lives in exile in Dharmsala, an Indian town in the Himalayan foothills. The Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950.
The Chinese message said: “We welcome the Dalai Lama to have talks with the central government at any time, and the talks may be held in Beijing, Hong Kong or any of our embassies or consulates abroad,” according to the news agency.
“If the Dalai Lama finds it inconvenient to conduct talks at these places, he may choose any place he wishes,” the message continued.