AS-India-Tibet 2ndLd-Writethru 11-17

Tibetan exiles meet for talks

Several hundred Tibetan exile leaders gathered today in Dharmsala for a landmark meeting to discuss the direction of the movement that has struggled for decades to win autonomy from China.

The weeklong meeting was called by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile, called for an "open and frank discussion" and new ideas following the repeated failure of talks with China.

He pledged in an opening speech that any decision about a new path needs to have "the clear mandate of the people."


He also cautioned that the meeting may not lead to a new approach with China, saying, "a change in policy need not come from this meeting."

The Dalai Lama was not expected to attend any of the meetings, said Lobsang Choedak, press officer of the government-in-exile.

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama’s envoys to the last round of talks with Beijing issued a statement saying they had presented China with a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their autonomy needs within the framework of the Chinese Constitution.

China insists Tibet has been part of its territory for 700 years, although many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that time. Chinese forces invaded shortly after the 1949 Communist revolution and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 amid an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule.

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