US President Barack Obama and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, exchanged greetings from afar, but did not meet in person at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast. China had warned the US against inviting Dalai Lama to the event, and reminded Obama that the Tibetan leader is a dangerous political splitter.
As the event commenced, Obama, who made a speech about the importance of religious freedom, nodded and smiled at the Dalai Lama, waving after "clasping his hands together in a bowing gesture towards the Buddhist monk," reports Reuters. He called the spiritual leader a "good friend" and "a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion and who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings."
The attendees also applauded when the organisers acknowledged the spiritual leader.
Among the 3,000-plus attendees, Valeries Jarret, Obama's senior adviser, was seated at the table with Dalai Lama, as a sign of respect and approval of his presence from the White house.
Dalai Lama's invitation to the annual congressional prayer breakfast, where legislators, officials and clergy gathered to offer thanks for the blessings bestowed on the United States, was frowned upon by the Chinese government. The state-run Xinhua news agency had even reminded Obama of the views expressed regarding Tibet and Dalai Lama during his visit to Beijing a couple of months ago.
During a meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Obama had said that he "acknowledges Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China and does not back independence for the region."
China also warned Obama that if he starts "chumming" with Dalai Lama, any progress they have made towards bettering the relations between the two countries would be dampened, according to Xinhua.
Watch the entire 2015 National Prayer Breakfast speech of President Obama here.