File image of Nancy Pelosi (Reuters)
Washington: A top Tibetan body has welcomed the decision of a US Congressional delegation led by top Democratic leader Nany Pelosi to meet the Dalai Lama next week, saying it sends a “strong message” to China that America cares deeply about Tibet.
The high-level delegation will meet the 81-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader in Dharmsala when it visits there from May 9-10.
“We welcome this initiative by the US Congressional delegation and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi,” Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet said yesterday.
“The visit sends a strong message to the Tibetan people that Pelosi and the United States Congress care deeply about Tibet, and it also reminds China that as long as the Tibetan issue remains unresolved, the international community will continue to put the spotlight on it,” Mecacci said.
Pelosi, 77, who is the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, will also lead the delegation for its visit to Germany and Belgium with an aim to focus on global economy, bilateral and multilateral relations and human rights.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman to be elected to the US House of Representative, will be accompanying Pelosi on the trip, a statement said.
Other members of the Congressional delegation are Jim Sensenbrenner, Eliot Engel, Jim McGovern, Betty McCollum Judy Chu and Joyce Beatty.
“Our bipartisan delegation travels at a vital time in the US relationship with India, Nepal and our NATO partners,” Pelosi said.
“Our delegation looks forward to meetings on how we can strengthen our economic and security relationships, as well as addressing challenges ranging from regional Russian aggression to global human rights,” she added.
“America must continue to be a strong leader on the world stage and our bipartisan delegation travels at a critical time for the US relationship with India, Nepal and our NATO allies,” said Congressman McGovern who is Co-Chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and has been a leading voice in Congress for strengthening human rights around the world.
“I am proud to join Leader Pelosi on this delegation and look forward to our meetings to discuss ways the US and our allies can work together to strengthen economic relationships and global security, while also doing more to strengthen human rights and address our shared regional interests,” he said.
Congressman McGovern was instrumental in introducing bipartisan legislation to promote travel by American diplomats, journalists and citizens, including Tibetan- Americans, to Tibet where access is routinely denied by the Chinese authorities.
McGovern and his Congressional colleague Randy Hultgren introduced the bill HR 1872, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RAT) of 2017, in the House of Representatives, on April 4.
Senators Marco Rubio and Tammy Baldwin also introduced the RAT Act in the Senate on April 4.
While Chinese officials and citizens can freely travel to the US, American citizens wishing to visit Tibet do not enjoy a similar access.
The premise of the bill is if China continues to deny access to American citizens into Tibet, then Chinese officials with oversight on Tibet should not be allowed to travel to the US.
Pelosi had previously led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Dharamsala in 2008, when she was Speaker of the House.
Speaking to the media in Washington DC, after their return, Pelosi had said the trip “was one that revealed certain truths, to us.”
“I considered the trip constructive, bridge-building, and we want to continue building that bridge through reconciliation and clearer understanding,” she had said.