Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 16:04 UK

Karmapa Lama allowed to visit US

By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

The Karmapa, the third-ranking Lama, front, attends a prayer session with the Dalai Lama at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, Sunday, April 6, 2008
The Karmapa Lama fled from Tibet to India at the age of 14

India has allowed the Tibetan monk, the Karmapa Lama, who fled China and sought asylum in India eight years ago, to travel to the United States next month.

The move is certain to enrage Beijing, which has put pressure on India to stamp out any political activity by Tibetan exiles.

The Karmapa Lama is the only major monk reincarnate recognised by both the Dalai Lama and China.

He has stayed in Dharmsala, the Dalai Lama's headquarters, since 2000.

India has allowed him to travel within the country, but - until now - not abroad.

This will be the Karmapa's first foreign visit.

Strong protests

The Tibetan monk, who is aged 22, has been staying at the Gyuto Tantric Monastery in Dharmsala since his escape from Tsurphu in Tibet in 2000.

India's decision to allow the Karmapa Lama to stay in the country led to strong protests from Beijing.

According to the official website of the Karmapa Lama, he will travel to the US for a fortnight in May.

It adds that the Indian government said in February that the request to allow the monk to travel abroad had been cleared.

Terming his trip as "historic", the website says that it will be the Karmapa Lama's first visit to the West, and that he would travel to three US cities.

The spokesman for the Central Tibetan administration, Thubten Samphel, said the government in exile was "really appreciative" of India's decision to allow the visit.

United States tour

Refusing to comment on the timing of the decision, Samphel said it was India's "judgement" and he would not comment.

When contacted, the US embassy in Delhi refused to confirm or deny the grant of visa.

The Tibetan monk arrives in New York City on 15 May, and then travels to Woodstock, New York; Boulder, Colorado; and Seattle, Washington, ending his US tour in the first week of June.

The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharmsala in exile since 1959, when he fled Tibet.

Last week the Indian foreign minister warned the Dalai Lama to refrain from saying anything that could affect India's relations with China.

India also stopped Tibetan protestors from marching from Dharmsala to Tibet.

India and China fought a war in 1962 and have been trying to sort out a border dispute through negotiations.

In recent years India has worked hard to mend relations with China, recently agreeing to outlaw large-scale protests over Tibet.

It now recognises Tibet as a part of China and frowns upon any political activity by the Dalai Lama.

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