The meeting occurred over the protest of the Chinese government and represents, Barnett suggests, a more muscular approach from the American government toward China. The meeting also came at a very interesting point in U.S.-China relations and at a time when the Dalai Lama is offering a more conciliatory approach to China. Moreover, Tibet’s significance in the region has perhaps never been greater. Barnett explains:
There are some areas in Southeast Asia and South Asia where there is some nervousness about China. And interestingly, Tibet is exactly at the center of those tensions. Tibet is becoming surprisingly significant in ways that I think nobody really realized twenty years ago, in that it’s the nuclear tri-junction, probably the only one in the world, between Pakistan, India and China. Three nuclear powers face each other over that Tibetan border. And it’s also the source for the water supply for the main rivers that feed about a fifth of the world’s population. And, as we know, the glaciers there are showing signs of drying up. So future conflicts about water, that a lot of people predict, will probably involve Tibet, if it comes to that kind of tension. So, there are some feelings of nervousness about China in certain parts of Asia.
Here is the full interview: