New Delhi: The Maoists-led government in Nepal has put on hold its crackdown on Tibetan refugees in what a political analyst and human rights workers said is a move aimed at making Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to the US smooth.
Dahal left for a five-day trip to the US on 20 September to attend the UN General Assembly’s session in New York.
The Nepal government has suspended its action against Tibetan refugees “because of the US tour of Prime Minister Dahal”, said a Kathmandu-based political commentator, who didn’t want to be named.
The suspension of the crackdown is seen as an effort to avoid the issue being taken up while Dahal is in the US.
An international human rights worker in Kathmandu said the crackdown was to appease the Chinese. “These protests were legal. They were not breaking any law. There was a lot of force used to put down the protests,” he said, asking not to be named.
Clampdown: A file photo of police arresting Tibetans protesting against the Beijing Olympics, in Kathmandu. Deepa Shrestha / Reuters
Nepal, which has some 20,000 Tibetan refugees, has been witness to numerous protests by Tibetans following a Chinese crackdown in Tibet in March. In retaliation, China closed its border with Nepal. The Chinese crackdown had resulted in protests across the world.
The new Nepal government is trying to improve its relationship with the communist neighbour, and the first foreign visit of Dahal after taking over as prime minister was to China, to participate in the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.
In Nepal, the government had “begun arresting around 1,000 Tibetans each day in June this year”, said another human rights worker. As part of the crackdown, the government had arrested Tibetan leaders under a charge that allowed it to hold them for six months without trial. However, the supreme court later ordered their release.
“The government is fine with the Bhutanese refugees. The Chinese have told the Nepal government to keep the Tibetans in check. The present government has made its intentions very clear,” said an Indian official posted in Kathmandu, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
However, Janardan Sharma, Nepal’s minister for peace and reconstruction, has denied that Tibetans are being targeted. “We have two friendly countries—India and China. We look at both the countries in the same light and want to treat them equally. We will not allow any activity in Nepal’s territory against the two countries.”
“Nepal government does not act under anyone’s pressure. We will maintain equal treatment with our friendly countries,” Sharma added.
India and China are trying to strengthen their commercial and diplomatic relations with Nepal, strategically located between two of the world’s fastest growing major economies.
Dahal, also known as Prachanda, was elected prime minister by the constituent assembly on 15 August. One of the first decisions of the assembly, formed after the April elections, was to abolish Nepal’s monarchy and proclaim it a republic—the world’s youngest.