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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Nepal, the new battleground for great power games

China shared its happiness when the government of Nepal decided and declared that Nepal would not go ahead with a controversial military pact with the US under the framework of the State Partnership Program (SPP). Just after this development, news came into the public domain which caught people’s attention.

First, China admired Nepal’s decision to reject SPP saying that it will always support Nepal as a good neighbour and always stand by it for the protection of Nepal’s sovereignty, independence and geographic integrity. 

Second, the perpetuating Chinese government has constructed fencing at the Ruila border which comes under Chumnubri Rural Municipality, Gorakha. China has done it forcefully without having any coordination or consultation with the Nepali side. Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the District Administration office was aware of the Dragon’s new steps.

Why China did not miss an attempt to encroach on Nepal’s land is a major concern. Last year, a team led by Nepali Congress lawmaker of Karnali Province, Jeevan Bahadur Shahi after his 11-day on-site visit to the Nepal-China border in Humla district found Nepal’s territory encroached by China.

This shows the climax of the contradictory behaviors of China towards Nepal. Escaped from being a part of SPP, the Nepalese people have put immense pressure on the ruling government. That was the business of Nepal’s domestic decisions like passing the MCC from the parliament was the decision of the Nepali people.

A few years ago, China used not to speak vocally about Nepal. And today, China did not refrain from speaking about affairs Nepal should handle on their own. They are now presenting themselves as if China is the patron of Nepal. For doing these all, China just needs some communist leaders to make its influence in Nepal. China knows that the Communist Party of Nepal and its leaders have a unique character in the world and that is of being not even proximate to communists’ ideology in a real sense.

Even at the time when MCC had to be passed by the House, China had openly poured venom on this matter even inflicting the further dire consequences on the MCC. China’s headaches are likely to increase. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuwa’s supposed visit to the United States could be painful for China. Although Nepal puts its denial on signing the SPP, now what new could be penetrated in future by the U.S. may torment the dragon.

In this regard, after the visit of King Mahendra in 1967 and U.S. President Ronald Regan invited King Birendra to Washington DC in 1983 and gave him a warm reception, Deuwa’s visit would carry meaning for many geopolitical partners of Nepal. Glancing at Nepal-American relations, The U.S. is the first country where Nepal could receive its first foreign fund in 1951 from. And from that point, the United States has been providing development support by opening an office of USAID in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

Till that time, to MCC, the U.S. has been supporting Nepal. Madhu Raman Acharya, who served the nation as a career diplomat has made a sober assessment of Nepal’s geopolitics, and depicted in his book Nepal Worldview, in the 1980s, the United States kept an eye on the burgeoning communist movement in Nepal.

Acharya further said, The United States included Nepal in the list of countries that it gave some attention to during the Cold War. Until the 1970s, the United States’ main interest in Nepal was to keep a watch on China and the Tibetan refugees. Like the previous American envoys, in 2018, newly-appointed US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry handed over the Letters of Credence to President Bidyadevi Bhandari and from there, Berry did not enter his embassy near Shitalniwas (Office of the presidents) his car sped straight towards Lazimpat area and entered the office of the Dalai Lama’s Nepal representative in exile.

Here, Berry had a half-hour discussion with the Dalai Lama’s representative, Chhcultrim Galso. Quoting the confidential report prepared by the Special Bureau of Nepal Police, the Nepal Magazine had brought Berry’s move to public. This shows the gravity of Tibetan issues for the USA claiming Nepal as a ‘Land power’ country.

Similarly two days before Zeya’s arrival in Nepal, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi had a courtesy call on Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand. Yanqi discussed on the issue of identity card of Tibetan refugees and conveyed the message to Nepal and the US both that Beijing is seriously concerned to this. But after reaching Kathmandu, Zeya reached Jawalakhel, Swayambhu and Buddhist monasteries with security skirts. Frankly saying, she met Tibetan refugees at the camp openly with security from the Government of Nepal.  

If we look closely, it’s clear that the diplomatic exercises of China and the United States have reached their peak in Nepal. The United States has taken Tibetan refugees as a human rights issue. As long as there are Tibetan refugees in Nepal, China’s ‘one-China policy’ does not seem to be able to stop the United States from talking and being active about Tibetan refugees.

There is no doubt that Bharat will tacitly support the United States on the issue of Tibetan refugees in Nepal. The main reason for China’s tension is that the so-called communists are no longer united in Nepal. Similarly, during the MCC’s approval from the parliament, and the current government’s lack of interest in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Former Prime Minister KP Sharma blatantly criticized the current government for not incorporating the issue of BRI in its policies and programs. Top to this, although the coalition government led by Deuwa–has mentioned the feasibility study of Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu railway connecting Nepal and China, in its policy and program, it has not been mentioned in the budget recently passed by the parliament. And for the time being, even if Nepal decides not to go to the SPP, it will be a headache for China to see the possibility that this decision may change in the future.

Very recently in a public programme CPN-UML’s leader who is allegedly closer to China and a seasonal nationalist, Bhim Rawal has boldly claimed that the current government has not sent any letter to the US about the official denial of being part of the SPP.  And on the contrary, The BRI project seems to be as serious as possible for China to be implemented by the government of Nepal. Due to these conditions, Nepal seems to be a separate wrestling ground for China and the United States with more clarity.  

Last but not the least, the number of people visiting Nepal from China and the United States is increasing. There are many such visits that many do not even know about. In recent times, many people questioning Nepal’s geopolitics and foreign policy. Still few so-called communist leaders, use to politicize the narrative of ‘Indian expansionism.’ Would those communists call ‘Chinese expansionism.’?

Advocating for Nepal’s sovereignty, China has been encroaching on Nepali land twice a year. The US Army Chief may not have said that Nepal is a power land without any reason. It would be very natural for this land to be powerful for its neighbours. But now that the US perceives Nepal as a ‘land power’ amid fierce competition between China and the US globally, it is growing diplomatic pressure on Nepal.

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Randhir Chaudhary
Randhir Chaudhary
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @randhirJNK

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