Under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman’s visit to Nepal this week is a praiseworthy sign of American concern about affairs in that nation wedged between Tibet and India.
Nepal has a lot to contend with—outstanding issues under a peace agreement that in 2006 ended a ten-year insurgency and Chinese efforts to upend Nepal’s role as a haven for refugees from Tibet that China occupied in the 1950s. Under formidable Chinese pressure, Nepal’s admirable stance on Tibetan refugees has been called into question. An estimated 20,000-plus Tibetan refugees live in Nepal, while as many as a few thousand a year transit Nepal on their way to India. Beijing tried to force the repatriation of a party of Tibetan refugees last fall. That effort was turned back that effort thanks largely to the efforts of a leading Nepali NGO and diplomacy by the U.S. and other countries. Nepali police, who receive aid and training from China, have also harassed Tibetans living in Nepal.
In addition to expressing support for Nepal’s peace process, Sherman visited with the Tibetan community and expressed support for administrative measures to register and document Tibetan refugees to make their status more secure.
Sherman’s visit is being reported as the first high level U.S. visit since Secretary of State Colin Powell visited in 2002. In fact, Maria Otero, the president’s special representative for Tibetan issues, has also visited Nepal. More such visits by senior administration officials will be vital in the years to come in order to counter communist China’s objectives.