It is heartening that the USA’s Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal is now engaged for the final resolution of the long-festering Bhutanese refugees problem in Nepal and that foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat has been categorical that Bhutan must take its citizens back (The Kathmandu Post, page one, September 5, 2016). However, not mentioned in the news and in the foreign minister’s interview (p.06)is the fact that it has been India that had dumped them in the third country, Nepal, in the first place and has steadfastly refused to help solve the problem despite umpteen rounds of negotiations with that landlocked country that is under treaty obligation to India to be advised by the latter in its defense and foreign policy. Since lately, both Nepal and India have committed to improve mutual relation this refugee problem could certainly be one test case for India in this regard. As for Bhutan too, welcoming back her own Lhotsompa people presents an opportunity for earning Nepal’s goodwill that she maystand in need of while trying to open up with China and becoming a hub for entrepot trading between the two big economies that would surely help her emerge as one of the most prosperous countries in south Asia.
But the US official’s suggestion for assimilation of the remaining refugees into Nepal could not be more preposterous, because it would amount to the USA, a country that otherwise pleads the most for human rights around the world, lending her seal of approval to Bhutan’s inhuman act of ethnic cleansing that had robbed these hapless people of their homes and hearth and had sent them packing off as refugees to India before the Indian government decided to collude with Bhutan and ferried them to the Nepal border more than a quarter century ago.
Bihari Krishna Shrestha