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03KATHMANDU128

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
03KATHMANDU128 2003-01-24 08:02 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kathmandu

 

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

              C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 000128 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2013 
TAGS: 
              PREF
              PREL
              NP
              BT
              UNHCR

SUBJECT: NEPAL:  FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN BHUTANESE REFUGEE 
SITUATION 

REF: A. (A) GENEVA 0253 

              
              B. (B) NEW DELHI 0388 

              
              C. (C) STATE 16356 

              
              D. (D) KATHMANDU 0041 (NOTAL) 

              
              E. (E) NEW DELHI 0023 (NOTAL) 

Classified By: AMB. MICHAEL E. MALINOWSKI.  REASON:  1.5 (B,D). 

-------- 
SUMMARY 
-------- 

              
              1.  (C) Foreign Minister Narendra Bikram Shah returns on 
January 28 from an unofficial visit to Bhutan to discuss the 
refugee issue with his counterpart.  Shah said he believes 
the visit presents a window of opportunity to secure a 
bilateral resolution to the problem.  The EU representative 
in Kathmandu expressed deep skepticism that Bhutan is serious 
about resolving the problem and noted that many European 
donors are reluctant to use their leverage to pressure the 
kingdom on refugee repatriation.  He welcomed the idea, 
however, of the EU and USG working out a joint position to 
encourage progress before the Feb. 17 donors' meeting in 
Geneva.  The Indian Embassy has expressed dismay at U.S. 
activism on the refugee matter.  End summary. 

------------------------------ 
DISAGREEMENT OVER CITIZENSHIP 
------------------------------ 

              
              2.  (SBU)  On January 22 the Ambassador and DCM conveyed Ref 
C talking points to Foreign Minister Narendra Bikram Shah and 
to Foreign Secretary Madhu Raman Acharya respectively.  Shah 
left for an "unofficial" visit to Bhutan to discuss the 
refugee issue with his counterpart oon January 23.  (Note: 
The low-key visit, which was originally supposed to be 
confidential, was touted in a MFA press release upon his 

SIPDIS 
departure as an effort toward progress on the refugee 
situation.  End note.)  Upon his return to Kathmandu on 
January 28, the Minister will brief the Ambassador on 
developments. 

              
              3.  (C) Both Shah and Acharya stressed that they believe the 
Minister's visit presents a window of opportunity for 
movement on this contentious issue.  Shah is hopeful that a 
bilateral agreement can be reached by Nepal and Bhutan.  If 
successful, Shah would look for international support to make 
the agreement work.  Acharya said he believes the Nepalis and 
Bhutanese are "just one word away" from reaching an 
agreement.  The text proposed by the Nepalis says that the 
Government of Nepal (GON) will accept Bhutanese not returning 
to Bhutan for resettlement "according to Nepali law."  The 
Bhutanese, however, insist that the text be amended to read 
"according to Nepali citizenship law."  The issue of 
citizenship is politically charged in Nepal for a number of 
reasons, Acharya observed, including the large volume of 
pending claims from Hindi-speaking residents of the southern 
plains of Indian parentage.  The GON is thus unlikely to 
accede to the Bhutanese demand to change the language, the 
Foreign Secretary concluded. 

------------------ 
THE VIEW FROM THE EU 
--------------------- 

              
              4.  (C) On January 23 the DCM called on EU Charge Rudiger 
Wenk to elicit his views on likely donor positions at the 
upcoming February 17 conference in Geneva (Ref C).  Wenk, who 
has spent more than five years tracking the refugee issue 
from New Delhi and Kathmandu, expressed deep-seated 
skepticism that the Foreign Minister's visit to Bhutan will 
result in significant progress to break the logjam.  The 
Bhutanese will doubtless say very positive things during the 
visit, he predicted, but will undertake no follow-up actions. 
 Thimpu has no incentive to make concessions, he observed, 
and benefits by deferring substantive action toward a 
resolution.  Many EU member states that are donors to Bhutan 
are nonetheless reluctant to put pressure on Thimpu, 
believing that continued Western support is necessary to 
counterbalance perceived Indian influence and preclude the 
"Sikkimization" of Bhutan.  Even if the donors did decide to 
use their influence to urge a solution to the refugee 
problem, Wenk said Bhutan is unlikely to prove susceptible to 
such pressure because its dependence on foreign aid is fairly 
limited.  That said, the French Government has succeeded in 
putting the refugee issue on the agenda for the Feb. 17 donor 
meeting, he added. 

              
              5.  (C)  As an example of dismissive attitudes displayed by 
the Government of Bhutan (GOB) toward donor views, Wenk 
reported that Thimpu has never given the EU Commission a copy 
of the first--and only--verification exercise conducted at a 
refugee camp, even though the EU paid the USD 300,000 tab for 
the undertaking.  EU funds supporting the refugee camps in 
Nepal are set to run out in March, Wenk warned, so the EU 
Commission is eager to see a resolution.  Although the 
Government of Denmark, when serving as head of the EU, sent a 
letter to both the GOB and GON urging a timely resolution to 
the problem, no reply from either government has been 
received, Wenk reported. (Note:  The Danish Charge recently 
told us that Denmark received little support from its 
European colleagues when it tried to bring pressure on Bhutan 
over the refugee issue at last year's aid consortium.  End 
note.) 

              
              6.  (SBU)  Despite his skepticism, Wenk said he welcomes the 
USG desire to press for resolution of the problem.  He said 
that growing donor fatigue makes increasingly questionable 
how the refugees would continue to be fed.  He suggested that 
the EU and the USG formulate a joint approach in preparation 
for the Bhutan aid consortium to be held in Geneva on 
February 17.  He undertook to advise Brussels of USG interest 
in the matter. 

----------------- 
INDIANS PERTURBED 
----------------- 

              
              7.  (C)  Wenk said that Indian Ambassador Shyam Saran had 
expressed to him apparent dismay at the USG initiative to 
resolve the crisis.  Because of India's open border, 
resettling 100,000 refugees in India would be easy, Saran 
reportedly said (Ref E), although he apparently did not 
suggest that the GOI would consider such a course.  According 
to Wenk, Saran said he fears the USG initiative will relieve 
the GOB of responsibility for resolving the problem.  It is 
all right if part of an eventual solution to the problem 
implies third countries taking a certain number of refugees, 
but proposing actual numbers for ultimate resettlement abroad 
takes the pressure off Bhutan and "pulls the rug out from 
under our (India's) feet" in resolving the crisis, Saran 
said.  The Ambassador did not, however, specify what efforts 
the GOI is undertaking to reach a resolution.  (Note:  None 
of our Indian diplomatic colleagues, including Ambassador 
Saran, has expressed similar sentiments directly to us.  End 
note.) 

-------- 
COMMENT 
-------- 

              
              8.  (C) We are somewhat skeptical as well that Foreign 
Minister Shah will return to Nepal with anything concrete 
from his discussions in Thimpu, but welcome GON efforts to 
give the stalled discussions one last jumpstart.  The 
prospects of Nepalese Maoist insurgent attention to the 
camps, coupled with dwindling EU aid--a point we hope will be 
strongly emphasized at the donors' conference in Geneva--make 
the need for an expeditious resolution to the problem more 
urgent than ever.  Unfortunately, however, the Indian 
Ambassador's comments indicate that we may not count on the 
GOI to support our initiative. 
MALINOWSKI

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