HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha is going to raise the issue of Bhutanese and Tibetan refugees, call for an early meeting of the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission and convey the country’s proposal to postpone the SAARC Summit, during the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) in New York, and on the sidelines.
Shrestha, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will put forward Nepal’s views on the Tibetan refugee and foreign assistance issues while addressing the UNGA. On the sidelines, he is to call on Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley to ask Thimpu to allow refugees, who did not opt for third-country re-settlement, to return home. “The refugee issue has long eclipsed prospects of strengthening Nepal-Bhutan relations in the social and fronts,” Shrestha told THT, before leaving for New York. A source told this daily that the government is expecting Thinley to request Nepal for its help in its bid to be a non-permanent member of the Security Council, which will fall vacant at the end of 2012 when India completes her term under the Asia Group.
Shrestha set out New York today, leading a dozen delegates, including Foreign Secretary Durga Prasad Bhattarai and UN Division Chief at MoFA Dipak Dhital. Some of his delegates will join him from the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN in New York.
Foreign Minister Shrestha is likely to hold a meeting with his Indian counterpart SM Krishnan. If the meeting is held, the Nepali side is planning to call on New Delhi to set a date for the long-due foreign minister-level Joint Commission meeting. The highest-level bilateral mechanism has not held its meeting since February 1991. A meeting was slated for March this year, but it did not materialise.
While addressing the UNGA on September 27, Shrestha will request the international community to assist in Nepal’s development efforts. The minister will also request to the world to take into account Nepal’s sensitive position while dealing with the Tibetan refugee issue.
Nepal has been stating that it is not a party to any international convention on refugees and it has been doing what it has been doing only on moral and humanitarian grounds.
During an informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers, Shrestha will update his counterparts on the political condition in Nepal and buy time until September 2013 to host the 18th SAARC Summit. The highest-level meeting of the regional bloc was expected to be held in early 2013.
Nepal will also lobby for its candidacy to become a member of the UN Economic and Social Council — election to which will be held in October-end. Foreign Secretary Bhattarai is to stay in New York until then to garner international support for Nepal’s bid.
During his 10-day stay in the US, Shreshta is also to call on Presidents of Sri Lanka and Switzerland, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Secretary-General of the United Nations. Separate meetings with foreign ministers of Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, and South Korea are also on schedule.