By Ray Fleming

IS it necessary for the President of the United States to meet the Dalai Lama? There are quite a few presidents and prime ministers in the world who have not yet been received at the White House yet the exiled religious leader of the Tibetan people seems to have no difficulty in getting an appointment.

There is a reason, about which little is said -- The Tibetan Policy Act of
2002 which put the force of law behind America's long-standing inclination to back the Tibetans as victims of Chinese Communist aggression. It was passed during President Bush's term of office in response to pressure from the powerful Tibetan lobby in the United States. President Obama has tried to finesse the objections of China to his meeting with the Dalai Lama by describing his visitor as a spiritual leader rather than a political figure -- but everyone knows that is just playing with words.

Understanding between China and the United States is the most important bi-lateral relationship in the world today yet it is currently faltering over America's sale of arms to Taiwan, China's unhelpful attitude on climate change and internet freedom. The US and its European allies want China's supporting vote on UN sanctions against Iran. Furthermore, the President of China, Hu Jintao, is due to pay a State Visit to America in November. In these circumstances would it not have been better to postpone the Dalai Lama's visit for a while?