Sunday, January 26, 2014

Understanding the background of Nepal

  • Nepal is a buffer country between India and China. India has historically thought Nepal to be a pro-India neighbor. 
  • Nepal shares land border with five Indian states. India and Nepal are not only linked due to the proximity of land, but it is the cultural affinity that binds the two nations. 
  • The common linguistic and ethnic identities, Hindu religious practices, similar festivals, affinity of food, resemblance of dresses, and the overall way of thinking, all make inseparable ties between India and Nepal. 
  • Added to this range of similarities and affinities, is the presence of many prominent Nepali political leaders that have their ancestors or relatives in India.

A little historical background between China - Nepal 

Flash back of history will take historians to dwell into the border conflicts that resulted in Nepal-Tibet-China war (1789-1792) over territorial dispute. Further advancement in time will give even grimmer picture of Nepal-Tibetan war of 1855 that was concluded in 1856 with the Treaty of Thapathali with the special status of China as a mediator. Thereafter, by the early 19th century, Nepal broke all relations with China. Can such hostile relations shake the foundation of two thousand year old ties between India and Nepal? Not really, unless we see the developments of Nepal-China relations in the present times and reassess the grounds on which the current relations are established.

Nepal and China resumed diplomatic relations in the mid 1950s. The basis of signing the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1960 was Nepal’s recognition of Tibet as a part of China and a resolution to the long-standing border problem. Thereafter, China has constantly spread its sphere of influence on the Himalayan Kingdom by expanding greater economic linkages and extending substantial military assistance to Nepal. 

In the 1970s, when King Birendra of Nepal proposed Nepal as a “zone of peace” between India and China, India did not show keen interest, while China was quite supportive. These and many such issues created a rift in Nepal-India ties; while at the same time China has been pro-active to support and aid Nepal.

Current Scenario ?

Although India was the largest investor in Nepal in the year 2011-12 that is not the case now. During the past six months, China has become the largest FDI invester in the country. China alleges that it has taken this move to tackle the increasing influence of the US in the Himalayan kingdom.

However, the reality seems to be quite different. After the signing of the Nepal-China Friendship Treaty, China has significantly increased its presence in the country. It has opened Chinese language learning centres, China-Nepal friendship associations have been started and infrastructure such as mobile towers have been set up. These activities lead to an increased inter-mingling between the Chinese and the Nepalese civilians.

Why should Chinese presence in Nepal concern India ?

1 )  Securing China’s interest in Tibet-after China occupied there were a large number of Tibetans taking refuge in Nepal. By aligning Nepal with it, Chinese have succeeded in a change in Nepalese policy towards Tibetans fleeing from Tibet and convinced Nepal to take strong action against anti-Chinese activities in Nepal.

2) Possibilities are that China might be undertaking such massive investments in the Nepalese side bordering India to monitor the movements of the Indo-Tibetan refugees, intelligence collection as the border is open or aiding the Maoists in their war against the Indian establishment.

3)  Ending Nepal’s overdependence on India by providing economic ,military ,technological and education cooperation to Nepal would weaken India’s hold on Nepal. This would erode India’s long term influence and balance India’s growing power in south Asia.

4)  China has also pushed forward its strategic interests through infrastructural projects and FDI in Nepal. An enhanced Chinese presence in Nepal will mean increased vulnerability of our northern states from Himachal to West Bengal.

5) The point to be considered here is that all these activities are being done very close to the Indian border with Nepal, precisely near the states of UP and Bihar. The internal security (Maoism) and border security will be at risk. Illegal drugs and arms smuggling might be eased via China’s presence.

Moral of the Story :-

This influence till now is at infant stage but once there is victory of Communist party of Nepal [Maoists] in the future elections this influence will mature. This rise of Nepal will be harsh for India, for example our long term investments in hydro power may be cancelled and given to China as has been seen in Maldives.

All these factors and the recent acts of Chinese territorial aggression in J&K and Arunachal Pradesh should definitely be a cause of concern for India. It should effectively start taking steps to curb these activities before its too late.

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