US envoy admires Dalai Lama for seeking freedom for Tibetans

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BY VISHAL GULATI
Dharamsala, July 8 (IANS)
Reaffirming Washington’s continued support to the Tibetan cause, US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Ian Juster, on Monday greeted Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on his 85th birthday by admiring his tireless efforts to seek freedom for Tibetans and bringing an end to strife and hostility around the world.
“Your Holiness, it is a special privilege to know you and to be the chief guest at this celebration of your 85th birthday,” Juster said in a video message.
“The esteem in which you are held by the people of the United States is a demonstration of the deep and enduring affinity between Americans and Tibetans, beginning with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sent you the gift of a pocket-watch when you were a young boy.
“Successive US administrations of both political parties have admired your tireless efforts to seek freedom for Tibetans, preserve the Tibetan culture and bring an end to strife and hostility around the world,” Juster, who had called on the Dalai Lama at his official palace here in May 2018, said.
“The presentation to you in 2007 of the Congressional gold medal by your friend President George W. Bush stands as the preeminent demonstration of the high regard in which you are held in the United States of America.
“In the words of President Bush during the presentation ceremony in the US capital, ‘You are a universal symbol of peace and tolerance. A shepherd for the faithful and the keeper of the flame for his people. This is why all of us are drawn to a noble and spiritual leader who lives a world away’,” the US Ambassador said.
“I believe the warm feelings between Americans and Tibetans spring in part from the recognition that yours is a just and noble struggle. A struggle to secure for your people the same self-evident and unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that our founding fathers enshrined in the “Declaration of Independence”.
“You may have read these words on the walls of the Jefferson memorial when you visited that landmark in 1991.
“We like to think that these words may have had some influence on Your Holiness when you created a democratic framework for your own people. Your abdication in 2011 of temple authority in favor of the elected-Central Tibetan Administration extended to thousands of Tibetans around the world the right to chart their own destiny.
“We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the Central Tibetan Administration which helps support the health, wellbeing and prosperity of Tibetans who have sought refuge in India,” he said.
“For the American people, your work is in many ways a continuation of the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
“Your unwavering sense of purpose calls to our minds the words of Dr. King in his letter from Bermingham jail when he wrote that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of leaders and you.
“Your Holiness epitomise this type of leadership. We are also proud of the role the US Embassy in New Delhi, in its own modest way, has played in nurturing the affinity between our peoples.
“This includes our reception in 1946 for the delegation of the Tibetan government that congratulated my country on the end of World War II. To the late Gene Smith whose work at the Embassy’s Library of Congress Office rescued thousands of priceless Tibetan texts from the depravations of China’s Cultural revolution,” Juster said.
“We know how much remains at stake for your people and we look forward to more years of your leadership in the service of freedom for Tibetans and their survival of Tibetan culture and identity.
“I would like to close by returning to President Roosevelt, whose gift to you in some manner may have led us here today. Confronting a different era when the world seems locked in conflict, President Roosevelt remarked in a final message to the American people, ‘If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the signs of human relationships, the ability of all peoples of all kinds to live together and work together in the same world at peace’.”
“I can think of no one who better exemplifies these words than Your Holiness. Like the era of President Roosevelt, we too are living in challenging times, in our case due to the pandemic.
“Yet this celebration today of your 85th birthday and your life’s work gives us great hope for the future and the promise of a more peaceful world. Happy birthday to you, Your Holiness and many happy returns,” Juster added.
The Dalai Lama, who believes in the “middle-path” policy that demands “greater autonomy” for the people in Tibet, is viewed by the Chinese as a hostile element who is bent on splitting Tibet from China.
The globetrotting monk lives in exile along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.
The Tibetan exile administration, known as the Central Tibetan Administration and headed by democratically elected Lobsang Sangay, is based in this northern Indian hill town.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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