DHARAMSHALA, India (Diya TV) — A bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers met with the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India, on Wednesday, signaling a renewed U.S. stance on Tibet that is likely to irk China. The meeting coincides with President Biden’s expected signing of a bill urging Beijing to address Tibet’s concerns about cultural, religious, and linguistic autonomy.

The seven-member delegation, led by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrived in Dharamshala on Tuesday. The town has been the Dalai Lama’s home in exile since he fled China following a failed uprising in 1959. “It is still my hope that one day the Dalai Lama and his people will return to Tibet in peace,” McCaul expressed post-meeting.

The delegation’s visit aims to compensate for what some see as the Biden administration’s hesitance to vocally support Tibet. Pelosi highlighted the importance of the newly passed congressional bill, asserting it sends a clear message to China: “This bill says to the Chinese government: things have changed now, get ready for that.” The legislation pressures Beijing to resume negotiations with the Dalai Lama and his representatives, which have been stalled since 2010.

Beijing’s reaction was swift and stern. The Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated that Tibet-related issues are internal matters and warned of “resolute measures” to safeguard its sovereignty. “We urge the U.S. side to adhere to its commitments of recognizing Tibet as part of China and not supporting ‘Tibet independence’,” stated spokesperson Lin Jian.

The meeting in Dharamshala adds to the complexity of U.S.-China relations, particularly as the two nations attempt to stabilize their diplomatic ties. The Chinese government views the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, as a separatist, a label he denies. The Dalai Lama advocates for genuine autonomy within China rather than full independence.

The timing of the U.S. delegation’s visit is particularly notable as the Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to the U.S. later this month for medical treatment. It remains unclear whether he will meet with any U.S. officials during this trip. Historically, every U.S. president from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama has met with the Dalai Lama, though Biden has yet to do so since taking office.

Critics argue that China’s modernization efforts in Tibet have led to the erosion of Tibetan culture, language, and religion. Penpa Tsering, president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, previously stated, “Such infliction of suffering and oppression on the Tibetan people by the Chinese Communist Party authorities is unparalleled and unprecedented.”

The visit also underscores the broader geopolitical dynamics between the U.S., China, and India. While India officially recognizes Tibet as part of China, it hosts the Tibetan exiles, balancing a complex diplomatic relationship with Beijing. The U.S. delegation’s visit comes alongside a trip by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell to New Delhi, signaling a unified stance on Tibetan issues. Notably, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also yet to meet the Dalai Lama in person since he’s taken office.

The dispute over the rightful Panchen Lama, the second-most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, remains unresolved. Activists claim that the Dalai Lama’s chosen Panchen Lama was abducted by Chinese authorities in 1995 and has been held incommunicado since. Meanwhile, China appointed its own Panchen Lama, intensifying the conflict over Tibetan religious succession.