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US Raises Tibetan Refugee Issue with Nepal

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara

The United States has once again raised the prickly Tibetan refugee issue with Nepal. The latter has been strongly adhering to the one- China policy and has been demonstratiing its commitments though measures against the 20,000 strong Tibetan refugee community.

The US asked Nepali officials to honour a UN-brokered “gentlemen’s agreement” on Tibetan refugees; to start the registration of stateless Tibetan children and give either Nepali land or safe passage to Tibetans who want to go to Dharmashala, India. The Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government reside in a village in Dharmashala.

In her second visit to Kathmandu within a year, US Deputy Under-Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Kelly Clements held talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara. The American politician reiterated Washington’s long standing position on Tibetan issues by raising the UN-brokered “gentlemen’s agreement” on Tibetan refuges and asked the Nepal government to start the registration of Tibetan children born after the 1990 census.

The last census Nepal had held of Tibetan refugees was in 1990. Nepal had reached the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” in 1989 with the UN and western countries. DAS Clements also discussed the protracted Bhutanese refugee issues with Nepali official.

The parties discussed the issue of re-registration of Tibetan refugees’ children born after 1990. The children are facing difficulties in studying, getting documentation, pursuing higher education abroad and landing jobs.

A statement issued by the US Embassy in Kathmandu said:

“In Nepal, DAS Clements expressed the appreciation of the U.S. government to the Nepalese government for cooperation on resettlement and support for efforts to find durable solutions for all refugees in the camps. DAS Clements also highlighted the appreciation of the U.S. government for the government of Nepal’s commitment to ensure the safe transit of new arrivals to India and to respect the basic rights of Tibetans resident in Nepal. Finally, DAS Clements also expressed the concern of the U.S. government for the population of stateless persons in Nepal.”

In response to her request on the registration of the children, Mahara told the American official that the government will “think positively” on the issue.

Nepal is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans, but there has been no census for more than two decades, according to the Home Ministry. Tibetans continue to take arduous trans-Himalayan trails to cross over to Nepal, a tricky issue in Nepal-China relations. During her visit to Nepal last June, Clements made a similar request to the then Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala and Home Minister Bhim Bahadur Rawal.

Before arriving in Kathmandu, Clements visited the Bhutanese Capital, Thimpu, and held several meetings with senior Bhutanese officials, including Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley, officials said. On the Bhutanese refugee issue, she said both Nepal and Bhutan should initiate bilateral talks to resolve the protracted issue and start repatriation.

In addition, DAS Clements stressed that the U.S. government and the international community are ready to help the governments of Bhutan and Nepal to support a process to manage the return and reintegration of refugees once agreements are reached. The US, which has resettled more than 30,000 Bhutanese refuges, has been pressing Nepal and Bhutan to start negotiations on the repatriation.

About Anil Giri

Writes for The Kathmandu Post, the leading English newspaper in Nepal. Earlier, he was stationed in New Delhi as a Chief of Bureau for The Himalayan Times. He has worked for AHN, the US based new agency, The Guardian, Korea Times and others.

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