DHARAMSALA, India - A US State Department official arrived in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and his exiled Tibetan government is based, to supervise funds that Washington has granted Tibetans.
The visit is the first to Dharamsala by a US State Department official, a Tibetan government official said.
Melissa R. Pitotti, programme officer for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration for Asia and the Near East, said she had come to supervise the funds that Tibetans had been receiving through her office from the US government.
She is being accompanied by another official on her three-day tour of the hill station, during which she will visit various Tibetan offices and organisations. She is expected to call on the Dalai Lama on Monday.
"I do not have any special message to give him, but I feel honoured and privileged to be meeting him," Pitotti said.
The Tibet Fund in New York allocates some two million dollars a year to various Tibetan organisations and about 127 million dollars a year to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to help fund the Tibetan Reception Centre in Nepal, Pitotti said.
The centre serves as a refuge for Tibetans who have fled their homeland across the icy Himalayas during the winter months, when Chinese border guards have left due to the severe cold.
According to officials, some 2,500 Tibetans flee into exile each year to escape oppression by Chinese authorities. Most eventually head towards Dharamsala to join the Dalai Lama.
China occupied Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in 1959 with thousands of supporters after an abortive revolt against Chinese rule.