07/06/2009, 00.00
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Row with Beijing after Nepali MPs meet Dalai Lama

by Kalpit Parajuli
China waits no time to protest meeting. Nepali government reiterates its pro-China policy. In India the Dalai Lama’s 74th birthday are celebrated in style.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – A row broke out in Nepal over a recent meeting between the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s leader in exile, and six Nepali parliamentarians from various parties, including some from parties in the current government. In the meantime Tibetans living in India and Nepal are expected to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 74th birthday today. However, Nepali authorities have warned they would not tolerate anti-Chinese protests.

In his meeting with Nepali lawmakers the Dalai Lama asked them to support the Free-Tibet movement and ensure that Tibetan refugees in Nepal are treated the way Bhutanese refugees are treated.

Lawmaker B.P. Yadav reassured Tibet’s spiritual leader that he would take up the issue with Nepal’s prime minister and president.

Nepal has tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees but the government follows a pro-Beijing policy and is opposed to any anti-Chinese demonstration.

China did not wait long to respond. The Deputy Chief at the Chinese Embassy in Nepal Si Hui expressed serious concern about the event to Nepal’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Nepali authorities responded by issuing a statement reiterating Nepal’s ‘One China’ policy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Madan Kumar Bhattarai told AsiaNews that the meeting was against government policy.

“The meeting by MPs was a great mistake because of Nepal’s geo-political sensitivity,” said the prime minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Rajan Bhattara. As far he is concerned members of parliament should respect the government’s pro-Beijing policy.

Other voices backed the government’s pro-China policy and called on all political parties to conform their views to that of the government.

Referring to the fact three of the six MPs who met the Dalai Lama were from the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the party chairman, Upendra Yadav, said his party could not “be held responsible for any individual’s personal action.”

For Beijing the Dalai Lama’s international recognition remains a highly sensitive issue, something that must be prevented. However, for most Tibetans the Dalai Lama remains their true spiritual leader even after 50 years in exile.

Today in Dharamsala (India), seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, thousands of people are in fact taking to the streets to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. A delegation from the Australian parliament was present at the event.

As expected China’s embassy in Canberra complained to Australian authorities saying that the politicians visiting the Dalai Lama was a gross case of interference in China's internal affairs.

In Nepal, the authorities have warned that any anti-Chinese protest would be stopped and organisers, arrested.

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