Is India Nepal’s enemy?http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14778397
Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, assured New Delhi during his official visit to India September 14-18 that that his government would not play strategic games between India and China.
But his defence minister preached the opposite after returning from a visit to China in the last week of September. A elated Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal told the CPN (Maoist) periodical, The Janadisha Weekly aboutthe support China was prepared extend to Nepal in the military field.
Thapa is the ex-Deputy Commander of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA-M), and one of the leading voices from the CPN (M) demanding the PLA-M be absorbed into the Nepali Army (NA) en bloc.
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The Nepal Army, as well as other major political parties are opposed to this blatant attempt to politicize a professional force. In this context, Thapa also revealed that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was interested in establishing a separate relationship with Maoist army.
Thapa, who is also the Maoists’ military strategist, visited China at the head of a three-member delegation which included a senior Nepali Army officer to witness the PLA’s “Warrior 2008” military exercise. He was invited by Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Li Guanglie who is also a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP)’s Politburo. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with such exchanges between two sovereign nations. But, as Mao Zedong once said, one should “seek truth from facts”.
Some of the issues Thapa revealed in his interview are bound to ring some alarm bells in New Delhi. According to him, the “Chinese People’s Liberation Army wants to extend its relations with the Maoist PLA in Nepal. They maintained that China was ever committed to preserve Nepal’s territorial integrity”.
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Expanding further on his interactions with Chinese leaders, Thapa explained the compatibility of Nepal’s (or specifically, the CPN-M’s) and China’s security policy, saying in the changed political context Nepal’s security policy was same as that of China’s in “one way or the other”.
Thapa, inadvertently or deliberately, revealed the core of his and his party Central Committee’s India policy on his return from China in the following words “Nepal’s international border is open from three sides, thus the anti-Nepal elements are entering into our country freely challenging our national security and threatening our territorial integrity”.
He did not have to say any more. India borders Nepal in the East, South and West, and India was thus a threat to Nepal’s security and territorial integrity. Thapa made it almost clear that he would like Nepal’s foreign policy and security initiatives vis-à-vis India conform to that of China’s.
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Two other corresponding developments in Nepal demand attention along with the Defence Minister’s exposition on India. A book “Jasoosiko Jaalo” (Network of Spies) written by a journalist Saroj Raj Adhikari, released on September 21, claims that India’s intelligence agency, RAW, has infiltrated every system of Nepal including the Nepali Army and the political system. Adhikari seems to have counted all RAW agents in Nepal, and arrived at a figure of 1,005. He also claimed that Nepal’s Presidential and Vice Presidential elections were influenced by RAW.
Earlier, an article in a Nepali newspaper alleged RAW as also controlling Prime Minister Prachanda. The message is very clear. Prachanda and CPN (M) second in command, Baburam Bhattarai, were warned not to shake hands with India. Both these gentlemen had studied in India at some point of time and continued maintain links.
A documentary film, “Greater Nepal – in Quest of Boundary” claims historically Darjeeling, Dehradun and some other places belonged to Nepal but was incorporated into India by the British in an unequal treaty of Sugauli with the East India Company.
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There is only one other country, a neighbour of Nepal, which conjures history to claim territories of its neighbours.
Instigating Nepal to raise territorial issues with India is nothing new for China. During an official tour to Nepal in December, 1996, Nepalese sources say Chinese President Jiang Zemin advised close Nepalese friends that territorial sanctity is supreme for any nation and Nepal must pursue this supreme objective. Almost immediately after Jiang’s departure, Nepal raised the Kalapani issue with India.
More recently, a senior strategic advisor to the Chinese government had said China knew India planned to “Sikkimise” Nepal, but would not let that happen.
The difference between 1996 and 2008 is that while earlier China advised Nepal on such issues in confidential discussions, today they are coming out more arrogantly in the open. An earlier China’s Ambassador to Nepal had openly assured China’s commitment to Nepal’s territorial integrity as its own.
The Nepal News of September 24 quoted Chinese Ambassador Zhen Xianling as saying security was the main concern of China in its relations with neighbours. During Defence Minister Thapa’s visit, China announced a (NC) Rs.100 million military aid to Nepal. The co-relations cannot be ignored.
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The Nepalese political parties are jubilant that China’s railway from Lhasa was to soon reach Nepal. The Chinese proclaim that the railway will help it to connect with it more closely with the rest of South Asia. Some Nepali politicians see it as an alternative to India for access to sea ports and greater economic interaction with China to counter “dependence” on India.
The railway line from Golmud to Lhasa, and from Lhasa to Nepal’s border is unlikely to transport only people and trade goods. The railway branches off to other destinations on India’s borders. The military component of this railway system in the future will be ignored by Nepal at its own risk.
It is evident that China is trying to build Nepal among a series of “Little Dragons” spewing fire at India. It used Pakistan’s post-partition visceral anti-Indianism to a remarkable effect to nail India down for decades. With India having broken out of these shackles, the Beijing hardliners are also concerned by the new thinking in Pakistan discarding the burdens of the partition, and the creation of Bangladesh.
But China is not going to give up on Pakistan. This portends a more disturbing possibility centered on Pakistan. The American factor needs to be taken into account here. A resurgence of Chinese influence in Bangladesh is also becoming evident.
Recent developments in Nepal, read along with Chinese strategic writings, suggest that China’s objective to push its operative boundary with India to Nepal is receiving considerable support from Nepal’s Maoists.
Defence Minister Thapa’s exposition to the media may not be as official as a statement to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly. But neither he nor the Maois- led government have retracted what Thapa said, and it can thus be considered an official position.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the Nepalese government must now publicly explain Defence Minister Thapa’s views on India, since it raises questions about Dahal’s official position on India. Dahal must act quickly to clarify whether he is in control, or whether he was just waltzing with India to flatter and deceive it.
The views expressed in the article are of the author’s and not of Sify.com