The Otero Effect
Get ready Nepal, here she comes again.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Maria Otero is coming to Kathmandu again and she's probably bringing that big chip on her shoulder about Nepal's treatment of Tibetans. Unfortunately, it's not a very informed chip.
Ms. Otero will more than likely make some proclamation about how Nepal is not doing enough to protect Tibetans. This is true and Nepal can do much more in this regard, but Ms. Otero does not live in Nepal and does not see the ground realities or the Chinese pressure that Nepal must deal with every day.
It won't matter, Ms. Otero will make her case, scold Nepal and retreat back to safety on the other side of the world.
Her's is a sound-bite diplomatic effort on behalf of Tibetans. Otero's use of terms like "gentleman's agreement" tells blogdai that she's gotten most of her Tibetan data from the Tibet lobby in DC and not from more permanent and credible field and diplomatic channels.
I'm sure it was one of these uninformed sources that gave her the brilliant idea of coming to Kathmandu just a few days before Losar, the Tibetan new year. In recent years, Losar has been an exercise in Nepali repression of Tibetans at the request of the Chinese. All indications are there will be a similar effort to stifle Tibetan expression again this year. So is Otero's timing a deliberate act? Is Otero of the belief that a few words of support or warning might stave off some police action?
Naive and dangerous. Her visit just before Losar--even if she says nothing about Tibet--will trigger an increase in Chinese pressure on Tibetans in Nepal. Bank on it. Yang Houlan can't wait to show the Americans who's boss in Nepal and loves to pull the trigger in the name of "regional stability" as he says. She's courting trouble if she believes American hegemony has any staying power in Nepal, plus, the Chinese look to her every utterance on Tibet as evidence of meddling by "foreign Free Tibet groups."
Maria Otero (right) asking herself: "Who is this guy in the robe again?"
As annoying and childish as the Chinese are on the Tibetan issue, they DO perhaps have a point. blogdai has learned that during her last visit, Otero was accompanied by junior staffers of the DC Tibet lobby who undoubtedly were spoon-feeding their positions to her and providing her with briefings.
It was an unfortunate coincidence that shortly after her visit, the consular section of the U.S. embassy was caught designating Tibetan travelers as "refugees" and having some (unclear) involvement in a phony visa miscue involving Tibetans. The DC Tibet lobby strikes again? blogdai says this is too coincidental and too precise of a move to be pulled off without some form of planning and access from interested groups. Just sayin....
WHAT WE NEED TO DO
Anyway, Otero's last visit started a cavalcade of criticism of Nepal from obscure State Department officials and U.S. legislators alike. We can't let this happen again as we seek to build credibility on the world stage and attract foreign investment, so contact representatives of the Nepal media and Nepal trade organizations and have them be alert for this onslaught. Perhaps if we see the Otero effect coming we can plan for it, address it publicly, and then ultimately dismiss it.
2/14 Update: Otero cancels Nepal visit for the time being. Did she realize the volatility of showing up just before Losar or did she just read blogdai and cave? -=BD