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Foreign secretary heading to Dharamsala Saturday

Dharamsala, July 8 (Calcutta Tube) Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is visiting Dharmasala, the abode of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Saturday but it is not known if she will meet the Tibetan leader.

‘Nirupama Rao is visiting Dharamsala for two days from July 10,’ Bhim Sen, principal secretary to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, told IANS.

The foreign secretary is a former Indian ambassador to China.

Sen could not say if Rao would meet the Dalai Lama, whose government-in-exile is based in this hill town.

‘She has been declared a state guest by the (Himachal) government,’ Sen said. ‘She will arrive July 10 and depart for Delhi the next day.’

Monika Jain, director in the ministry of external affairs at McLeodganj here, told IANS: ‘The purpose of her visit will be confirmed tomorrow.’

In New Delhi, officials of the external affairs ministry and the Dalai Lama’s office said they had no knowledge of the visit.

‘I am not aware of it,’ Tempa Tsering, chief representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, told IANS.

The Dalai Lama’s office here did not comment on Rao’s visit.

Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama’s office, said: ‘We don’t have any comments.’

But a source in the Dalai Lama’s office said the foreign secretary would discuss issues relating to Tibetan exiles with the Nobel Laureate and with other high-ranking officials of his administration.

Security for the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959, would also be discussed, the source said.

Rao’s visit to this picturesque hill station has been cancelled a number of times earlier.

Deputy Commissioner (Kangra) R.S. Gupta told IANS: ‘Her visits have been cancelled three to four times earlier.’

The foreign secretary had been scheduled to visit Dharamsala July 3.

The Dalai Lama, who believes in the ‘middle-path’ policy that demands ‘greater autonomy’ for the Tibetans, is viewed by the Chinese as a hostile element who is bent on splitting Tibet from China.

The Chinese government has stepped up pressure on foreign governments that receive visits from the spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama’s government-n-exile is not recognised by any country.

Some 140,000 Tibetans now live in exile, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

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