Nepal: An emerging strategic arena between New Delhi and Beijing.

March 21st, 2009 - 5:01 pm ICT by ANI  

By Naveen Kapoor
New Delhi, Mar.21 (ANI): If the growing Sino-Pak cooperation between Pakistan and China and Beijing’’s marine encirclement through its “String of Pearls” strategy is causing flutters in New Delhi, South Block mandarins should start an exercise in imaginative diplomacy to prevent the Chinese Dragon from rapidly expanding in India’’s eastern neighborhood.
The Maoist-led government in Nepal is reportedly providing unconditional leverage to Beijing, even though it has in essence been India’’s next door neighbour and squabbled over “peripheral” issues like water, asymmetrical trade and migration.
But with the end of kingship and the ouster of the Nepali Congress, the geo-politics of the region is undergoing a rapid change, a change not necessarily in favour of New Delhi.
India is fast loosing its dominant status in this eastern backyard, as Beijing is planning to build a road link to Nepal and a railway network from Lhasa to Khasa.
China has decided to upgrade the Kodari Highway, which connects Lhasa and Kathmandu with a bus service and build more strategic roads for the expansion of rising duty free trade with Nepal. It has also agreed to provide assistance worth about Rs 460 million (RMB 50 million) to Nepal for the construction of the Syaphrubesi-Rasuwagdhi Road.
These road links are expected to be state of the art and modern, contrary to the degenerated traditional road links that are a distinct feature of the Terai plains straddling the Indo-Nepal border.
Beijing is also expected to upstage the India financed East-West corridor.
China is also eyeing on the vast pool of Nepal’’s hydel power. Analysts say Kathmandu has the potential to produce 80000 MW of power, but is currently generating just 500 MW. Sandwiched between the two energy starved Asian giants, Nepal has emerged as the new buffer zone after Tibet.
Undeterred by Beijing’’s rising clout, policy makers in New Delhi still believe Nepal’’s bent towards China is only restricted to government-to-government interaction, and that the masses still look upto `Big Brother”India.
However, a reality check is in order. Chinese study centers that have sprouted across Nepal are working overtime to promote cultural interaction. They have become effective tools for advancing the Chinese perspective on key issues concerning Nepal. These centres also disseminate the benign role of China and caution Nepalis about India’’s hegemonic intentions.
According to an IDSA article titled “Major Indicator of Growing Chinese Influence on Nepal”, Nepal’’s crackdown on Tibetan protests in March and April last year at China’’s behest is a pointer to which way Kathmandu is leaning, and should serve as a wake up call for New Delhi.
The Time magazine reports that Beijing has also deployed security officials inside Nepal to detect fleeing Tibetans and keep a lid on the unrest.
India is apparently displeased over Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal alias Prachanda’’s demand for including Maoist rebels in the army.
New Delhi is concerned that these rebels have deep links with Naxals in India and can prove to be very dangerous once they join the army.
India anticipates that Nepal could become another Pakistan or Bangladesh if this step is taken. China tacitly supports the inclusion of rebels, but does reveal why.
In India, there are fears that Maoists may end up establishing a China style single party rule in the former Kingdom.
Despite repeated demands, the Maoists have not disbanded the Youth Communist league which is now called Youth Communist Democratic League, which still acts as a red brigade of vandals and has around 100,000 members.
What is casting doubts over Prachanda’’s intention is that he is not insisting that the YCDL joins the party rank and file and the fact that he is encouraging them to continue with their struggle.
It is time India employs smart diplomacy and cultivates geo-economic links with the Terai which today sends more than 200 legislators to the Nepalese Parliament. The residents of the Terai region constitute more than two-thirds of the country’’s population. To neutralise China’’s aggressive policies, India should proactively facilitate the infrastructure development of the Terai region and strengthen the hands of the Madheshi parties. (ANI)

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