DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama urged Tibetans on Sunday not to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, just days before his planned meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama which has infuriated China.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who greeted thousands of Tibetans in the main Buddhist temple in the north Indian town of Dharamsala at the start of what would otherwise be a two-week Losar celebration, said the gesture was to honor those in Tibet.
“We have heard some voices inside Tibet that they will not celebrate Losar. We should respect and abide by that call,” the Dalai Lama said, speaking in Tibetan.
Tibetans who lived in exile had many freedoms that those living in Tibet did not have, the Dalai Lama said, after performing prayer ceremonies and rituals.
This is the second successive year that Tibetans in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s headquarters, will not celebrate Losar, which is usually marked with traditional song and dance.
Last year, Tibetans in exile had unanimously called off New Year celebrations in the aftermath of China’s crackdown after the March 2008 uprisings in Tibet.
While the Dalai Lama steered clear of any political comments on China or his upcoming trip to Washington, hundreds of Tibetans later signed “I Love Tibet” postcards, wishing Obama “Tashi Delek,” the traditional New Year greeting, and expressing their hope that the meeting will result in some concrete action.
China urged the United States on Friday to scrap plans for the long-planned February 18 meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama, the latest source of friction in already strained Sino-U.S. relations on issues ranging from trade to currencies to U.S. plans to sell weapons to Taiwan.
The Dalai Lama has said he wants a high level of genuine autonomy for his homeland, which he fled in 1959. Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist responsible for fomenting unrest in Tibet.
The United States says it accepts Tibet is a part of China but wants Beijing to sit down with the Dalai Lama to address difference over the region’s future.
Editing by Rina Chandran and Sugita Katyal
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