Remarks at a Reception in Honor of Losar, the Tibetan New Year

Alice G. Wells
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
February 8, 2019

As Prepared for Delivery

Hello everyone, Losar tashi delek! My name is Alice Wells, and I serve as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State.

I’m glad to join Patrick Murphy and my other colleagues here to welcome you all to our celebration of Losar. This New Year’s holiday is celebrated by communities throughout the Himalayan region, and by the Himalayan diaspora around the world including in the United States. The Department of State is proud to host our own event to commemorate this special occasion.

I join Patrick in welcoming Ngodup Tsering, Representative to North America of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and other distinguished guests.

Thank you to everyone from the non-profit, academic, and diplomatic communities, as well as our colleagues from Capitol Hill, for coming.

And thank you especially to the members of the Tibetan-American community for welcoming us to share in your traditions (and your millet beer).

We are here today to honor the rich heritage of the Himalayan peoples. From Ladakh to Thimphu in Bhutan; from Kathmandu to Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, the celebration of Losar, in all its local varieties welcomes the arrival of the new year.

This is a chance to take stock of the achievements of the last year and look to the opportunities ahead.

As I look to the coming year I am glad to know that close ties of friendship and solidarity between the United States and the Himalayan region will continue to deepen and expand.

From the pocket watch that President Franklin Roosevelt sent His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a boy, to the life work of the late Gene Smith of the Library of Congress who, while assigned to Embassy New Delhi, rescued and preserved countless priceless Tibetan texts during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the United States government has always been a steadfast partner to the people of the Himalayas.

Though separated by great distance, our peoples have also enjoyed a close affinity, exemplified by American businessman Burt Todd who in the 1950s and 60s was instrumental in establishing Bhutan’s first postal service and its world famous postage stamp traditions.

This affinity springs from deeply held values common to both the American and Himalayan traditions. Tolerance, compassion, openness to new ideas and a curiosity about the world, these are traits that have brought our peoples together over the decades, and continue to do so today.

I’m reminded of the work Richard Gere, whose activism across South Asia has done so much to increase awareness of the challenges facing the Himalayan peoples today.

Our shared traditions also hold dear the principle that the exercise of culture and religion are fundamental rights of the individual, not subject to the control or oversight of any government.

The United States is deeply grateful for the consistent commitment to these principles by our fellow democracy India, through its hosting of His Holiness in Dharamsala for the past sixty years. Through this act of profound generosity, India, perhaps more than any other country, has enabled the continuity of foundational Himalayan religious traditions.

As I consider the year ahead on the occasion of Losar, I look forward to expanded engagement and cooperation between our Embassy in New Delhi and the Office of His Holiness and the Central Tibetan Administration in India.

Losar is celebrated in different but equally rich and important ways across the many Himalayan communities. The United States greatly values the equally diverse and rich relationships we enjoy with our many Himalayan partners.

We look forward to developing our warm unofficial ties with the Kingdom of Bhutan, where a flourishing democracy has captured the world’s attention. Secretary Pompeo’s recent meeting with Foreign Minister Gyawali of Nepal reiterated our commitment to seven decades of friendship and cooperation with that country. And we look forward to continued engagement with state government officials of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The peoples and governments of the United States and the Himalayan region have never been more closely connected than they are today. On this commemoration of Losar I am thankful for the opportunity to acknowledge that bond with all of you, and to look ahead towards its continued growth in the coming year. Tashi Delek.