Nepal: No extradition treaty during Chinese President Xi visit

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By Kuber Chalise
Contributor to AsiaN from Nepal

Kathmandu: As the diplomatic community and political parties in Kathmandu show serious concern about the Nepal government’s ‘plan’ to sign the Nepal-China Extradition Treaty during the high-level visit from China this weekend, Nepal seems to back out from its plan.

“The understanding about China pressing Nepal to sign the extradition treaty has raised eyebrows in Kathmandu because it needs many rounds of transparent discussions,” Nepali Congress leader and former Foreign Minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat said.

Remembering that Nepali Congress has had a cordial relations with China since the time of Nepal’s first elected Prime Minister BP Koirala – an ardent sociologist and the founder of Nepali Congress Party – Mahat said that Nepal always has adopted one-China policy but the extradition treaty needs to be discussed thoroughly before signing.

The diplomatic circle in Kathmandu, however, is worried that the treaty could be used by China to extradite Tibetans from Nepal. There are around 20,000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal – mostly in Kathmandu and Pokhara – at present.

Some of them, who are suspected to be involved in Free Tibet movement, according to the Nepal Police, have already been arrested before the Chinese President’s visit. But the US and European Union (EU) take it as a gross violation against human rights and Nepal’s international commitment in the international agreements.

Taking part in a meeting in Baluwater, the official residence of the Nepal’s Prime Minister – on October 10 – former prime minister and Nepali Congress (NC) president Sher Bahadur Deuba also suggested the Nepal government not sign an extradition treaty in a haste as it needs wider consultations.

The meeting called by Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli also discussed on China-backed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and US-backed Indo-Pacific Strategy.

The former prime ministers of Nepal, and foreign experts present in the meeting reminded the government on Nepal’s historic stance of non-alignment.

“Nepal should take advantage from both BRI and Indo-Pacific Indo-Pacific Strategy, and develop itself as a trading bridge between India and China,” suggested former Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, on the occasion.

However, another former Prime Minister, who was in the meeting reminding what happened in Hong Kong after the proposals to allow extradition to mainland China, said that Nepal needs to follow the international commitments and agreements it has already signed before signing any bilateral agreements that could undermine the country’s judicial independence and endanger rights of refugees especially Tibetan refugees. “The extradition treaty may ruffle many feathers,” he suggested.

Nepali Congress stalwart and former Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, wishing a historic success to President Xi visit to Nepal, said that Chinese assistance should focus on Nepal’s development, prioritise based on felt needs in power sector, road connectivity, technology transfer, investment and export trade, rather than wishful thinking without techno-economic appraisal.

Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali – during the meeting – briefed about the Nepal’s agenda. “Nepal has connectivity on top,” he briefed.

“The shopping list includes Kerung-Kathmandu Railway, physical infrastructure upgradation at the Kimathanka and Korala border, upgradation of Rashuwagadi customs and road to Kathmandu, Tatopani customs and road to Kathmandu, Tamor Hydropower and also the Madan Bhadari University,” another former Prime Minister, who took part in the meeting said, without wanting to be named. “Apart from the pacts, Beijing has sent a signal that there will be a big-surprise during Xi visit.”

According to a preliminary study, the 80-km long Kerung-Kathmandu cross border railway is estimated to cost Rs 300 billion and will take eight years to complete.

However, a Chinese team will visit Kathmandu on October 11 to finalise the drafts of agreements that are going to be signed during Chinese President Xi’s visit, a high-profile visit from northern neighbour after 23 year since Jiang Zemin visited in 1996.

Accepting the friendly invitation of President of Nepal Mrs Bidya Devi Bhandar, the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping is paying a two-day state visit to Nepal on October 12 and 13.

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