Dharmsala: The Tibetan exile movement must press forward with its talks with the Chinese government even though almost no progress has been achieved during years of negotiations, the Dalai Lama said Friday.
In an exclusive interview with a news agency, the exiled spiritual leader warned it could be decades before any benefits of such talks with China are obvious.
"So far, dialogue failed, but that does not mean in future no possibility," the Dalai Lama said in his private compound in this Indian hill town where he has lived since fleeing Tibet more than five decades ago.
He said that increasing sympathy for the Tibetan cause among Chinese intellectuals indicates that Beijing`s policies could change. He also said there had been vague signs from Beijing that some of the top Chinese leadership might be ready to moderate its stand on Tibet.
"Those moderate factions (within the Chinese government) it seems are more active," he said, adding some leaders in Beijing now believe that "policy regarding Tibet now should be more openly, more peacefully. I heard that. True or not? We`ll have to wait."
But patience, he added, is something the Tibetans understand.
"We wait 51 years, now another 10, 20 years we can wait," he said, breaking into laughter.
Talks between China and the Dalai Lama`s envoys resumed in January for the first time in 15 months but made no apparent progress on the Tibetans` proposal for more autonomy in the region. Beijing refused to even talk about granting Tibet more latitude, limiting discussions to the future of the exiled spiritual leader.
No response was immediately available from China because its main office that handles Tibetan issues was closed Friday evening.
China dismisses the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" intent on gaining independence for Tibet.
But the Dalai Lama has long insisted he only wants some form of autonomy for Tibet within China that would allow Tibetan culture, language and religion to thrive.
"The whole world knows we are not seeking independence," he said. "But Chinese officials always insist we are splittist."
The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959, nine years after Communist troops marched into the Himalayan region. Beijing claims Tibet has been a Chinese territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time and that migration to the region and restrictions on Buddhism are threatening their cultural heritage.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has publicly made the creation of a "harmonious society" one of his top goals, despite the vast ethnic and economic divisions within the country.
The Dalai Lama scoffed at that, however, saying Tibet was kept in line through widespread repression.
"So far, in order to develop harmony, the main method is suppression. This is wrong!"