During the 14th meeting of Nepal-China Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, the Chinese side expressed reservations about US Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya’s visits to two Tibetan camps in Nepal, The Kathmandu Post reported.
“The Chinese side stopped short of mentioning the meeting but the message was by and largely clear,” the Post cited a participant of the meeting.
The bilateral Consultative Mechanism was led by the Foreign Secretary of Nepal Bharat Raj Paudyal and Assistant Foreign Minister of China Wu Jianghao. The meeting was attended by officials from over a dozen ministries, according to Nepal’s Foreign Ministry.
US Under Secretary of State Zeya, who is also the special coordinator for Tibetan refugees for the US administration, met with Tibetan refugee leaders in Kathmandu despite Nepal’s wish against the same, the newspaper reported.
Hours before her arrival, the Foreign Ministry had no idea about her meeting with the Tibetan refugee leaders, according to The Kathmandu Post.
The Nepali side, according to officials, reconveyed to the Chinese side that Nepal strongly adheres to the One-China policy and is committed to not allowing its soil against its neighbours. “The Chinese side appreciated Nepal’s commitment,” said the official.
Before arriving in Kathmandu, Zeya had met with the Dalai Lama and other senior officials of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamshala.
Ahead of Zeya’s arrival, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi had met with Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand and communicated to him that Nepal should respect and adhere to the One-China policy.
Zeya, during her visit, had raised the issue of documentation of Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.
The Nepal government stopped issuing refugee cards to Tibetan refugees in 1995, and according to Tibetan refugee leaders, as many as 7,000 Tibetan refugees do not have the identification document, reported The Kathmandu Post.
In recent months, the Chinese have been wary of America’s renewed interest in Nepal, especially after the ratification of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal Compact by the Nepali Parliament. After this, China, at least two times warned Nepal against assistance.
Nepal signed the MCC agreement with the United States the same year it signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Not even a single project, however, has taken off in Nepal under the BRI.
Amid increased US-China rivalry, Washington’s growing interest in Nepal has become a cause for concern for Beijing. But, the Tibetan refugee issue has been prickly for decades for Nepal and as well for Beijing.
China has agreed to resume two flights from Kathmandu to Chengdu and Kunming starting May 31 in order to resume air connectivity between the two countries which remains halted since the start of the pandemic. By the end of June, China is taking back 250 Nepali students who were waiting to return to China for the completion of their higher studies.
Similarly, the two sides have also reached an agreement, in principle, to allow Nepal to buy chemical fertilisers from China, according to another Nepali official.
China said that they have maintained the policy of non-alignment. But the way and the manner in which the US Under Secretary visited the Tibetan refugee camps on Nepali land was wrong and a violation of the foreign policy, the Kathmandu Post reported.