Dalai Lama's office won't reopen in Nepal: Prachanda
Apr 9, 2007 - 1:41:20 PM

Kathmandu, April 9 - Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, who joined the new government this month, have ruled out allowing the Dalai Lama to reopen his office in Kathmandu on grounds that it would jeopardise the country's 'good relations' with its 'friendly' northern neighbour China.

'It is a delicate issue because we have good relations with China,' Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, told IANS. 'We don't want our ties to be strained.'

'Though we will not repatriate the refugees who have been living in camps in Nepal for some time, we won't allow them to open new organisations - since we consider Tibet an integral part of China,' Prachanda said.

The decision had been on the cards since late last year when the Maoists, who profess to follow the teachings of Mao that power can be seized through the barrels of the gun, signed a peace pact with Nepal's seven-party government.

In the pact, they pledged to give up their armed struggle while the ruling alliance agreed to induct them in the government as its eighth partner.

On April 1, the Maoists, once regarded as a terrorist organisation whose top leaders had an Interpol alert for their arrest, joined Nepal's government with five key ministries.

In January 2005, weeks before King Gyanendra staged a coup with the army's help and usurped power, the then government shut the office of the representative of the Dalai Lama in Kathmandu.

The office, also known as the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Centre -, was a thorn in the flesh of Beijing, which has declared the once independent kingdom of Tibet a part of the Chinese republic and treats allegiance to the Dalai Lama in Tibet a punishable offence.

Soon after King Gyanendra declared himself as head of Nepal's government and received Beijing's support, the royal regime pledged support for the 'One China' policy that regards Tibet and Taiwan as 'inalienable' part of China.

Though Tibetans living in Nepal have been trying to register an NGO since the closure of TRWO two years ago, a succession of governments has put the application on hold, including the pro-democracy seven-party alliance that came to power last year after the overthrow of the royal regime.

Nepal allows Tibetans, who crossed into the kingdom in the past and are registered with the government, to reside in Nepal. But they are not allowed to own property or businesses.

With the Maoists in the government now, things are not going to improve for the diaspora.

Every year, hundreds of Tibetans, mostly women and young children, risk their lives to flee to India through Nepal.

International Campaign for Tibet, an NGO campaigning for Tibetans' rights, says the crossings are becoming more and more dangerous with Beijing's influence on Kathmandu growing.

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