Maria Otero

Under Secretary Otero (front, center) at a Tibetan-run hospital in Bylakuppe, India.

Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, who serves concurrently as U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, visited the Tibetan refugee settlement in Bylakuppe in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on February 8 and 9, 2011. Her visit to the largest Tibetan settlement in India is the first by a Tibet Coordinator, the top U.S. official who oversees Tibet policy. On arrival in South India, Under Secretary Otero was received by officials of the Central Tibetan Administration and Lodi Gyari, the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. ICT Director for Government Relations, Todd Stein, is traveling in tandem with the delegation.

As part of her Tibetan issues portfolio, mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act, Under Secretary Otero oversees U.S. programs for Tibetans, including the U.S. humanitarian assistance grant that supports Tibetan refugees as they arrive from Tibet and helps address educational and health needs in the Tibetan refugee population. The Tibet office in the State Department also has oversight of $2 million approved by the U.S. Congress to help revitalize the Tibetan refugee settlements. To this end, on February 1, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced it was seeking proposals for projects on organic agriculture and workforce development in the Tibetan settlements.

This U.S. financial support comes as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) seeks to implement its plan to revitalize the Tibetan refugee settlements in India and Nepal, some of which are a half century old, with improved infrastructure and new economic opportunities. Under Secretary Otero was briefed by CTA and local settlement officials on the plan and the challenges facing the Tibetan refugee population in South Asia.

“Under Secretary Otero expressed the continued strong support of President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the U.S. Government for the welfare of Tibetans and the viability of their communities as they endeavor to preserve their distinct identity during the time of exile in India,” said Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at the International Campaign for Tibet in Bylakuppe.

Under Secretary Otero was hosted at the Sera Monastic University and toured Tibetan commercial enterprises, a hospital, and an organic farming center to assess the needs of the settlement and its residents. She was able to hear directly from a broad spectrum of Tibetan community members.

Under Secretary Otero’s visit to Bylakuppe is part of a visit to South Asia that includes Nepal, where she will review the specific challenges faced by Tibetans there. The official announcement of her trip can be found at: US government statements regarding US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues’ visit to India.