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Is Trump preparing to change the script on Tibet? (the hindu)

A top advisor of Donald Trump’s transition team, on a visit to China, has revealed that the U.S. President-elect had declined the Dalai Lama’s request for a meeting, signalling the new administration’s openness to a policy review on Tibet.

Chinese website is reporting that in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV), Michael Pillsbury said that the Dalai Lama had once expressed his wish to meet Mr. Trump, but this was turned down. However, Mr. Pillsbury, who was in China last week to participate in the Pangoal Think Tank forum, insisted that he was not a representative of the Trump administration in waiting.

Any shift in U.S. position on the Dalai Lama is bound to have a downstream impact on India, which hosts the Tibetan leader in exile. Last month the Chinese foreign ministry expressed its “strong opposition” to the Dalai Lama’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee at a Rashtrapati Bhavan function.

In an article in The National Interest, which was published on the eve of his arrival at the forum, Mr. Pillsbury said that one of China’s longstanding demands is a ban on White House meetings with the Dalai Lama.

“As President, (Mr.) Trump could decline to meet with the Dalai Lama. He could also imitate his predecessor by merely ‘privately’ meeting with the Dalai Lama and having him leave the White House through the back door amidst piles of trash, then release a photo of the embarrassing scene, as (Mr.) Obama did.”

He added, “The Dalai Lama has already held a press conference at which he stated his desire to come to Washington to meet President Trump. The Chinese have specifically asked that this visit by the Tibetan leader not take place. The United States’ approach to the Dalai Lama — and Tibet as a whole — is one of several sources of Chinese anxiety.”

Mr. Pillsbury pointed out that Mr. Trump’s position on the status of Arunachal Pradesh, and arms sales to India, would also be of major concern to China.

“China claims Arunachal Pradesh, a large province of north-eastern India. Beijing calls it South Tibet. Indians have been engaged recently in a military build-up to protect this province. They have asked other countries to support their claim to the territory. So far, the United States has not taken a position, despite subtle advances from Indian Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi.”

He added, “Interestingly, (Mr.) Modi’s election platform in 2014 — as (Mr.) Trump’s new chief of strategy, Steve Bannon, pointed out at the time — was part of a rising global populist movement. The Indian media has suggested that (Mr.) Modi seeks an early meeting with President Trump. The topics of the Chinese territorial claim and the Chinese military build-up against India in the past decade would clearly be on (Mr.) Modi’s agenda. Whether President Trump supports India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh and continues U.S. arms sales to India already requested by (Mr.) Modi, now America’s largest customer of weapons, is another Chinese worry about the coming year.”

U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma had visited Arunachal Pradesh on October 21 to attend a three-day local festival in Tawang, drawing strong criticism from China.

The website underscored that during his stay in China, Mr. Pillsbury also disclosed that India wants the Trump administration to acknowledge South Tibet — the Chinese name for Arunachal Pradesh —as part of Indian territory.


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