A ‘free Tibet supporter’ in Oli’s cabinet: Experts warn it will spoil our relations with China

Photo: Ministry of Youth and Sports

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has appointed a man, who had come under investigation by Parliament Secretariat for participating in a free Tibet event organized by the Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet and the International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet in Latvia in May 2019, as the Minister of Youth and Sports.

Ekbal Miya who was appointed sports minister by PM Oli on June 4 was one of the two members of Parliament who participated in that event. Other was Pradip Yadav. Miya, then the lawmaker from Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, had participated in the convention in Riga, which was attended by Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration, Speaker Pema Jungney and Deputy Speaker Ven Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, according to a news report published in The Kathmandu Post.

After it came out in the media, the Parliament Secretariat had investigated the matter and reiterated Nepal’s adherence to ‘One-China policy.’

Samajbadi Party Nepal led by Upendra Yadav had sought clarification from Pradip Yadav and put him in suspension for six months. Ekbal Miya, however, did not have to face any such action from the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal to which he belonged then.

“Instead, he (Miya) was showered with praises by his leadership for what he did,” said a source requesting anonymity.

This comes amid a time when Prime Minister Oli appears to be running roughshod over the political system in support of India.  Former Indian ambassadors to Nepal writing in Indian press have accused the government of India of supporting the autocratic regime of Oli.

India and China have had frosty relations since the fresh scuffles between the two along the border region since 2020.

Nepal has always firmly stood with its official ‘One China Policy’ and has not allowed its soil to be used against ‘One-China Policy.’

Chinese side has always taken Tibet matters extremely seriously. During his visit to Nepal in October 2019, President Xi Jinping had sent a strong message that any pro-Tibet activity or support to such activity will not be tolerated by the Chinese side. “Anyone attempting separatist activities in any part of China will be crushed and any external force backing such attempts will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming,” he had said.

Observers say such a move by Oli will erode the credibility of the government and spoil relations with China.

“If this case is true, China is going to take the matter extremely seriously,” said Dr Dinesh Bhattarai, former ambassador and foreign policy expert. “Chinese leaders consider Tibet as central to the peace, stability and development of mainland China. Nepal should respect the sensitivity of China.”

“When we have a man in the cabinet who was involved in the activities which China is an affront to, what will become of the government’s image?” said Suresh Sharma, former Spokesperson of Nepal Army, who follows geopolitics. “The big question is why Oli chose such a person. What message does he want to send?”