Nepal government shuts down Dalai Lama's office

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Nepal government shuts down Dalai Lama's office


The government’s recent decision to close down the Dalai Lama’s representative’s office along with the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office is likely to raise serious questions about Nepal’s commitment towards upholding human rights. The US Embassy has already shown its concern regarding the decision. Nepal’s historic image as an adobe for refugees has suffered a serious blow due to this unforgiving and insensitive move by the government.

Tibetan offices have been in operation in Nepal since 1959, when the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, fled Tibet along with thousands of other Tibetans after a failed uprising against the Chinese, who had invaded Tibet in around 1950. The Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office performed the function of providing shelter, assistance and travel documents to several thousand Tibetans who each year flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. The office was providing vital humanitarian function to those Tibetans who risk frostbite and other ailments during their long journey from Tibet. The Nepali government, by closing these offices, is putting in jeopardy the welfare of thousands who are fleeing oppression. The government’s complaint was that these offices were not registered. A mechanism could have been created to register them lawfully so as to avoid this ugly situation.

The decision of His Majesty’s Government is speculated by many as an act of appeasing the Chinese government. The Chinese Embassy in Nepal has constantly tried to persuade the Nepali government to close down these offices, which are linked to the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE). It is also to be noted that the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), which is a ruling partner in the current government, is known as a pro-China party. Its influence could have been crucial in the government’s current decision.

Going against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Nepali government takes such steps as deporting Tibetans caught in border areas. It is against the spirit of the declaration to deport these people who are certain to receive brutal treatment for their alleged “Crime” of trying to escape. Such refugees should be immediately handed over to the representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Not doing so would be tantamount sense of justice and many accords. It is strange that Nepal’s human rights groups often make hue and cry over domestic human rights violations in the ongoing conflict. However, Tibetan refugees, with whom we have historic ties, are never even mentioned. It appears that they reluctant to criticize China’s human rights record for it is a large country and gives various assistance to Nepal.

Regrettably, it is the Nepali government, which is set to lose a lot due to its current decision to appease the Chinese. Tibetan exiles in the US and Europe have great influence. Several US senators are said to be supporters of the Tibetan cause. These legislators can in future block arms sales or military aid to the beleaguered Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). Without modern quality arms, RNA’s chance of defeating the rebels is remote. Even if China itself promises arms shipment to RNA, the problem is likely to complicate. It the rebels succeed in complicate. If the rebels succeed in capturing these arms, they can then easily smuggle spare parts and ammunition for these weapons through Nepal-Tibet border just as they are doing it in the case of Indian weapons through Nepal - India border. It would be difficult for rebels to find spare parts of say American or European weapons not used in either India or Nepal.

Recently, India and China were engaged in strategic dialogue to resolve their long-standing differences including border dispute. It may be possible that China might have persuaded India to relinquish support to Tibetan freedom movement. Maybe, instructions to the Nepali government came from New Delhi. In big power plays of the world, seemingly minor issues often get sidelined for broader interests.

Like India, Nepal has recognized Tibet as an integral part of China. It is up to the future generation to decide whether Tibet will accept to remain as a part of China. China’s mere size wields enormous influence over Nepal. It can almost never say no to China, whether it concerns Tibet being “integral” part of China or Taiwan being part of China. China coerced the Nepali government to forcibly disarm the Khampa rebels in the 1960s. Armed rebellion is understandably destabilizing, however, peaceful refugees cannot be deported and offices meant for humanitarian cause cannot be closed down due to whatever diplomatic pressure. Nepal should learn to resist some pressure for the sake of upholding human rights and human dignity. Otherwise, there is no point of establishing NHRC, HURON and the like.


Source: Kathmandu Post - 31-1-2005


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