Kathmandu: Nepal and China will discuss an extradition treaty during the two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kathmandu beginning on Saturday, according to a media report on Friday, amid concerns that Beijing can use it against Tibetan supporters of the Dalai Lama living in the country.
The draft of the treaty, finalised by officials from Nepal and China, will be discussed as per the spirit of the statement issued jointly by the two countries during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's China visit in June last year, officials said.
They, however, said an agreement is unlikely, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Based on the understanding reached in Beijing, task forces from both sides had worked on the treaty's draft. Officials familiar with the matter said that the Nepali side had held several rounds of negotiations with a Chinese team that had come to Nepal for the purpose, the paper reported.
"The treaty is a priority for both the Nepali and Chinese sides, said an official at the Law Ministry on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak on the matter. Expert worry that Beijing is pressing to sign the treaty mainly to extradite Tibetans involved in "anti-China" activities in Nepal.
China accuses the Dalai Lama as a "splittist" working for Tibetan independence. Beijing sent troops into remote, mountainous Tibet in 1950 in what it officially terms a peaceful liberation and has ruled there with an iron fist ever since. The Dalai Lama fled to India in early 1959 after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule.
Nepal shares a long border with Tibet and is home to around 20,000 Tibetan exiles. Every year some 2,500 Tibetans illegally enter Nepal crossing Tibetan border on their way to Dharamshala to meet the 84-year-old Dalai Lama.
A leader from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) confirmed that discussions on the treaty are on Xi's visit agenda.
"There will indeed be a discussion on the matter, but the rumours about an agreement are baseless. Nepal is discussing a similar treaty with India, so discussions will be held with China as well," Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the ruling party spokesperson, told the paper.
Shrestha said that the Cabinet had not endorsed the treaty yet and that it had only been enlisted for discussion.
During an all-party meeting called by the government on Thursday to discuss Xi's visit, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali said there were no preparations to sign an extradition treaty with China.
Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai urged the government not to sign the treaty for now as discussions for a similar agreement with India were ongoing. Nepal signed an extradition treaty with India on October 2, 1953, when Matrika Prasad Koirala was the prime minister. The Indian side, however, has been demanding a revision to the treaty.
In 2006, Nepal and India were close to signing an Extradition Treaty and the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance. Negotiations however failed due to disagreements among the parties in Nepal. Similar attempts collapsed in 2008 and 2010.
The treaty would allow the two countries to hand over criminals from third countries to each other. Even in the lack of an agreement, police forces from both Nepal and India have been handing over criminals on an informal basis to each other.
The security has been intensified in Kathmandu for Xi's visit. The government has declared public holiday on Sunday to ease traffic in view Xi's visit. Special pass will be required for vehicles to ply on the major roads. Very few media representatives are allowed to have access to cover the visit.