Tibet can exist within China just like the European Union nations stick together, the Dalai Lama told the International Campaign for Tibet, an organisation based in the United States, in a video message on Thursday.

“I always, you see, admire the spirit of [the] European Union,” Reuters quoted the Dalai Lama as saying. “Common interest [is] more important rather than one’s own national interest. With that kind of concept, I am very much willing to remain within the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese word, ‘gongheguo’ [republic], shows that some kind of union is there.”

The Tibetan spiritual leader also expressed desire to return to his homeland, which he fled in 1959 after an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule. He then set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala. China, which considers Tibet to be an integral part of its territory, sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist leader.

But, the Dalai Lama reminded the Chinese leadership that the Tibetan problem would not go away. “Among the Chinese hardliners, in their mind, it seems some kind of dilemma is there about their present policy – whether, you see, it can solve Tibetan problem or not,” he told the audience that had gathered in Washington, DC to celebrate the International Campaign for Tibet’s 30th anniversary.

Earlier this week, the Tibetan leader’s representatives said he would not attend the Indian Science Congress that began in Manipur on Friday, even though he was listed as one of the chief guests for the event. His decision came weeks after the Centre reportedly directed senior leaders and government functionaries to avoid events the Tibetan government in exile had planned in India as it was a “very sensitive time” for India’s relations with China.