US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU298

BHUTANESE REFUGEES: NEPAL TO GRANT OPTION OF RETURN

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU298
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU298 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-02-07 11:40:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREF PREL EAID AORC PHUM NP Bhutanese Refugees
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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 000298 
 
SIPDIS 
 
GENEVA FOR RMA 
ROME FOR USMISSION 
LONDON FOR POL/RIEDEL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2012 
TAGS: PREF, PREL, EAID, AORC, PHUM, NP, Bhutanese Refugees 
SUBJECT: BHUTANESE REFUGEES: NEPAL TO GRANT OPTION OF RETURN 
 
REF: A. 01 KATHMANDU 2203 
 
     B. 01 NEW DELHI 8349 
     C. 01 KATHMANDU 1736 
 
Classified By: A/DCM Michael S. Hoza.  Reason: 1.5 (B, D). 
 
1. (C) Summary.  Nepal intends to grant verified Bhutanese 
refugees the "option of return" to Bhutan and will allow 
those who wish to stay in Nepal to do so, Foreign Ministry 
officials have indicated.  UNCHR views this development as 
extremely positive.  Despite Kathmandu's efforts to fix a 
date, Bhutan and Nepal have not yet agreed on arrangements 
for the next Bhutan-Nepal Ministerial.  Nepal still felt 
third parties should be involved in the process, but was not 
yet ready to approach third parties once again for 
assistance.  Nepal's offer seems to have been a calculated 
risk to build Bhutanese confidence.  End Summary. 
 
Nepal to Grant Refugees "Option of Return" 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2. (C) Nepal will grant verified Bhutanese refugees the 
"option of return" to Bhutan, MFA Joint Secretary Gyan 
Chandra Acharya told us in recent meetings.  Nepal would then 
"take care of" those individuals who chose not to repatriate. 
 Acharya held back from saying explicitly that those who 
wanted to stay would be allowed to settle in Nepal - "Nepal 
will not force refugees to go back; beyond that we cannot 
say" - although in answering our queries he indicated that 
that was what he meant.  Acharya stated that Nepal still 
wanted Bhutan to agree, "in principle," to accept all its 
nationals back.  On the other hand, Nepal also has concerns 
about how Bhutan would deal with repatriated refugees, and 
understood that some refugees would want to remain in Nepal. 
 
3. (C) The UNHCR Representative in Kathmandu commented that 
Nepal's offer to give the "option of return" was an 
"extremely positive" breakthrough," and showed Nepal's 
flexibility. 
 
Ministerial Meeting Still Elusive 
--------------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Nepal has been trying to get Bhutan to agree to a 
Ministerial-level meeting to discuss Bhutanese refugees, 
Acharya said.  (Note:  The two nations last met when at the 
Foreign-Secretary level in early November (Reftel).  At the 
recent SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, the two sides reportedly 
held informal discussions on the refugee issue.  End Note.) 
Nepal wanted to ensure that the meeting would be productive; 
specifically, Kathmandu hoped to "harmonize" positions on 
categorization.  Bhutan was "trying to be a little bit 
flexible," but Nepal remained frustrated by progress to date. 
 According to Acharya, Bhutan has agreed that repatriation 
will begin after agreement is reached on categorization, and 
Kathmandu is hopeful that some refugees could be repatriated 
this year. 
 
5. (SBU) Acharya added that his side told the Bhutanese that 
Nepal has no designs on Bhutan, and has been trying to 
develop trade, joint ventures, tourism and sports 
competitions between the two countries in an effort to build 
ties with and reassure Thimpu. 
 
Nepal Keen on Third Party Involvement 
------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) Nepal may ask again for the involvement of third 
parties to break a deadlock and move forward, Acharya said 
(Ref B).  Third party involvement in the process will help, 
Nepal insists.  Bhutan does not regard third party 
involvement as so important, Acharya said, although the 
Bhutanese government does not reject it outright.  He stated 
his conviction that third parties should not be kept on the 
margin, but rather should be part of the mainstream. 
 
Comment: Opening Doors 
---------------------- 
 
7. (C) Nepal's decision to grant the refugees the option not 
to go back to Bhutan was a calculated risk to build Bhutan's 
confidence.  After an initial burst of euphoria following the 
initiation of the joint verification process early last year, 
the Nepalis have become increasingly frustrated at the slow 
pace of the process to date, and have repeatedly asked for 
U.S. help in influencing Bhutan to move the process forward. 
The "option of return" policy was their own effort to get it 
moving.  For better or worse, the policy opens a door that, 
once ajar, cannot be closed. 
MALINOWSKI 

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