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Dalai Lama's Envoys Hold Talks with China

  • Anjana Pasricha

Two envoys of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have returned to India after holding talks with the Chinese government. It was the first contact between the two sides in nearly 15 months.

A spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, Thubten Samphel, says they are encouraged that contacts with the Chinese have resumed.

"The fact that this meeting took place, it's a positive indication," he said. "And, before the meeting there was this top-level conference presided over by President Hu Jintao on the issue of Tibet. So, from our side, we feel it is a positive signal being sent."

Samphel was referring to a high-level conference, convened by the Chinese leadership on Tibet, days before the recent meeting with the Dalai Lama's envoys.

The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala in northern India, revealed no details about the talks held in Beijing.

The talks have reopened a secretive dialogue between the two sides after a lengthy deadlock. A meeting held in October 2008, had ended with China rejecting the Dalai Lama's proposal for more autonomy for Tibetans.

It is the core demand being made by the Tibetan spiritual leader for the Himalayan region, which he fled following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The Chinese state media says that China has told the Dalai Lama's representatives that no concessions will be made on issues concerning Chinese national sovereignty.

However, Samphel points out that the Tibetan government-in-exile is only seeking a high level of autonomy for the region. He says this was conveyed to the Chinese.

"We want all the areas inhabited by Tibetan people come under one single administration which enjoy genuine autonomy," he added. "We are not demanding anything beyond constitutional rights given to the minorities."

The Dalai Lama has consistently said that his demand for more autonomy for Tibet is in line with the Chinese constitution.

A wave of unrest which gripped Tibet in 2008 prompted a crackdown by Chinese authorities and charges that the Dalai Lama is instigating protests in the region. The Buddhist leader denies the charge.