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US secret cables on Bhutanese refugee issue out

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Anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks, has released yet another document reputed to have contained detailed talk between the then Foreign Minister of Nepal, Ramesh Nath Pandey, and US Ambassador to Nepal, James F Moriarty on long-standing Bhutanese refugee issue.

In a confidential cable of the US Embassy in Kathmandu categorized as ‘Secret Kathmandu 002811’ and with a subject as ‘FM Pandey seeks special, long-term relationship with US’, FM Pandey expressed frustration with the Bhutanese on the lack of progress in repatriating refugees.(Download full text of WikiLeaks’ cable on Bhutanese issue)

The cable revealed the talk on the Bhutanese issue under a sub-title – will push repatriation with Bhutanese FM.

The leaked cable further said, while stating understanding of Bhutan’s concern about stability, he also worried that the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) might expel the ethnic Nepalis still living in Bhutan.

“Pandey said he planned to meet with the Bhutanese FM on December 25 in Dhaka on the margins of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) meeting. He would inform the Bhutanese that repatriation should start within a few months’ time, otherwise Nepal would internationalize the issue,” the document revealed.

FM Pandey further added that Nepal would resume issuing travel documents to the Bhutanese as part of internationalizing the issue.

On the other hand, the Ambassador commented that as there was nothing guaranteeing that the RGOB would not expel ethnic Nepalis, part of the effort to internationalize the issue should be to take steps to prevent future expulsions.

Envoy noted that South Asia Assistant Secretary Rocca had written the Bhutanese Foreign Minister asking for the SIPDIS (Siprnet Distribution, meaning the communications are part of the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) terms and conditions for return and a timeline, it added.

The secret talk concluded that FM assured to consider issuing exit permits to allow the resettlement of three vulnerable minor girls noting that their resettlement would not ease the pressure on Bhutan to repatriate the refugees from Nepal.

Despite repeated attempts of Bhutan News Service, former minister Pandey was not available to give a comment.

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