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Nepal joins hands with China against Tibetans

July 2, 2011

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/nepal-joins-hands-with-china-against-tibetans/articleshow/9032544.cms

NEW DELHI: China, after having significantly expanded its footprint in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), is now making a conscious effort to influence foreign policy in Nepal by getting its government to push back Tibetans wanting to cross over to Dharamsala through the Himalayan Kingdom, and also seeking a ban on the Free Tibet movement in Nepal.

In what does not augur well for New Delhi, which has spared no effort to maintain a cordial relationship with Nepal given its geo-strategic significance, Beijing has found a welcome ally in Nepalese deputy prime minister and home minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara , a Maoist considered very close to the Chinese regime. Under Mahara, the Tibetan movement has been hugely restricted, and the Nepalese troops on the China border have taken to pushing back Tibetans headed for Dharamsala through the Nepal route.

"It has come to our notice that Tibetans are not being allowed to cross over to Nepal for the last 2-3 months for onward travel to India," a senior intelligence official told ET. This, the official explained, was in deference to standing instructions from Mahara to discourage anti-China activism and protests in Nepal.

Cashing in on the currently supportive stance of the Nepalese government, the new Chinese envoy in Kathmandu, Yang Houlan, wasted no time to seek curbs on the Free Tibet movement protests in the Himalayan Kingdom. In a meeting with Mahara in Kathmandu on Monday, Yang expressed worries that Tibetan exiles in Nepal could resort to 'anti-China' protests during the upcoming anniversary celebrations of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

China is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the founding of CCP on July 1.

According to Mahara's spokeperson, the home minister assured the Chinese envoy that Nepal would not allow any such activities on its soil. "Nepal does not have a policy to allow any activities against its neighbours. We are aware about Free Tibet activities. We won't let such activities take place on Nepali soil," said a press note issued after the meeting.

On his part, Yang lauded Nepal's commitment to "One China" policy and the measures taken to curb anti-China activities. He urged Mahara to keep a special watch on such activities in view of the security sensitivities of China.

The proximity of Mahara to the Chinese powers had come to light last year when audio tapes featuring his alleged conversation with a Hong Kong-based Chinese agent were leaked. Mahara was reportedly heard asking the Chinese agent for a 500-crore bribe to swing the prime ministerial election in Nepal.

Even as India has so far desisted from registering any formal protest with Nepal over its stance against Tibetan refugees, estimated to number around 20,000, the US - which openly supports the Tibetan movement - took the lead by raising the issue with Kathmandu recently. The US asked Nepali officials to honour a UN-brokered "gentlemen's agreement" on Tibetan refugees. Under the agreement, Nepal will start the registration of stateless Tibetan children and give either Nepali land or safe passage to Tibetans who want to go to Dharamsala.

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