Moscow: In a major shift, Russia on Thursday
said it is ready to assist in the dialogue between China and
the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to resolve the
vexed Tibet issue.
"If all the parties make attempts to separate purely
pastoral contacts from political associations, this would be a
solution to the problem. We are ready to assist in this,"
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Federation Council,
Russia`s upper house of parliament.
He said occasional attempts to politicise the Dalai
Lama`s role as a spiritual leader do not bring any desired
results, including the development of ties between the Dalai
Lama and Buddhists in Russia.
"We are carefully following what is happening
between the leadership of China and the Dalai Lama and we know
that the Chinese leadership is deeply committed to the Dalai
Lama dissociating himself from any kind of political activity
and separatist tendencies," Lavrov said.
Representatives of the Dalai Lama and Chinese
Government have held a number of rounds of talks on the Tibet
issue, but no progress has been made so far.
So far Moscow, which recognises Tibet as integral
part of China, was looking at the dispute between the Dalai
Lama and China as Beijing`s "internal matter".
Russia had in 2004 reluctantly allowed the Dalai Lama
into the country to meet his followers.
The Kremlin has been under pressure to allow the
visits of the Dalai Lama to meet his followers as Buddhism is
one of the officially recognised traditional religions of
Russia along with Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
There are some 700,000 followers of Buddhism in the
Russian Federation, mostly in the eastern areas like Buryatia
bordering on Mongolia and Republic of Kalmykia in South
Lavrov said Moscow supports the development of
inter-religious and inter-faith ties, but is against aspects
of religion that have been distorted into politics.
The state-run RIA Novosti in its comment noted that
Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959, has repeatedly said he
seeks autonomy for Tibet rather than independence from China.
"Millions of Russian Buddhists are looking forward
to the Dalai Lama`s visit and a decision should be made on
this matter," Mikhail Kapura, who represents the Republic of
Kalmykia in the Federation Council, told Interfax.
Senators representing Russia`s Buddhist regions had
sent a letter to Lavrov in March asking about the possibility
of issuing a Russian visa to the Dalai Lama.
"We are talking about a pastoral visit, and His
Holiness the Dalai Lama would like to visit Kalmykia,
Buryatia, and Tuva, where Buddhists traditionally live,"
Kapura recalled that the last time the Dalai Lama
visited Russia was in 2004.
"People in Kalmykia still remember this visit," he
China gets infuriated when world leaders meet with the
Dalai Lama as it accuses him of heading a separatist group
seeking independence for Tibet. China has always claimed Tibet
as its territory and says it has autonomy.
In February, US President Barack Obama received the
Dalai Lama at the White House, which led to a souring of
relations between the two countries.