KATHMANDU - Nepal denied Tuesday that it had caved in to diplomatic pressure from China by denying permission for a senior Tibetan Buddhist monk to be cremated in Kathmandu in accordance with his wishes.
The Nepalese Embassy in India initially granted approval for Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche's body to be transported to Nepal from neighbouring India for cremation after he died of a heart attack in Germany last month.
Rinpoche, 62, was the 14th Shamarpa of the Karma Kagyupa lineage, also known as the Red Hat Lama of Tibet, and one of the most senior figures in Tibetan Buddhism with followers in Asia and Europe.
The ministry of home affairs said permission had been withdrawn because officials did not know that Rinpoche held a Bhutanese passport when the original approval was given.
"Nepal does not have laws regarding cremation of foreigners and thus we cannot allow his body to be brought here," Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, spokesman for Nepal's home ministry told AFP.
"The decision was not made under pressure. We haven't received any request from any country regarding this issue," he added.
Nepal, home to around 20,000 Tibetans, is under intense pressure from its neighbour China over the exiles who have fled their homeland.
The government in Kathmandu has said it will not tolerate what it calls "anti-China activities" and has grown increasingly intolerant of protests highlighting human rights violations in Tibet.
"Did they not check his nationality earlier? It is easy to answer why the permission was suddenly revoked, it was because of Chinese pressure," said Kapil Shrestha, a political science professor at Nepal's Tribhuvan University.
The body had been due to be brought from India to the Shar Minub Institute in Kathmandu, a monastery the Shamarpa had built.
"It was his wish to be cremated in Nepal because of the historical connection between Nepal and the Shamarpas," said Neeraj KC from the Administration of the Shamarpa.