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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China takes over Nepal

August 4, 2010

Claude Arpi Blog
August 1, 2010

What is going on in Nepal?

No much good for India if one goes by the latest
news. The Maoists with their Chinese supporters
are clearly trying to change the status quo. An
article in The Times of India gives a significant
example: "Nepal's 'fractured polity' is clearly
taking a heavy toll on India's relations with the
important Indian neighbour. After the
controversial withdrawal of the contract issued
to an Indian government firm for machine readable
passports, New Delhi's initiative for a fresh
India-Nepal extradition treaty seems to be the
next target of Kathmandu's political instability."

Now sources in the Nepali government say that the
extradition treaty is not likely to be signed
before Nepal's new Constitution comes into force.
It may take some time and in any case the Maoists are against the new treaty.

But the collaboration freeze (‘until the
Constitution is passed’), is not applicable to
everybody. Sino-Nepal relations flourish as never
before. The website China Tibet Information
Center, a subsidy of the official Xinhua news
agency, announced on July 13 that that the port
of Gyirong located in Shigatse Prefecture of the
Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) will be fully
operational in 2011. The website affirmed: "Since
the end of 2009, TAR has made great efforts to
build the Gyirong Port and speed up its
construction in 2010. The construction will keep on after the port reopens."

The Economic Times explained further: "China is
expanding its engagement with Nepal by building
what is being billed as the biggest land port
connecting it with the South Asian region as a
whole. This is seen by observers as part of a
larger move to connect Xigaze (Shigatse) with
Nepal by rail," adding: "The idea is to
apparently build it as a border post larger than Nathu-la [in Sikkim]."

The message is clear, even if there is nobody to
read it in Delhi. Kathmandu is also interested to
import petroleum products from China once the
secluded ex-Kingdom is connected by rail to the
TAR. A Nepali government statement mentions that
"an expanded and enhanced connectivity between
the two countries [will] also open the avenues
for Nepal being a transit country between the two
giant economies, China and India."

While Nathu-la does not fare too well, will
future business between India and China pass
through Nepal? It seems surrealistic.

But there is more. While India has to wait for
the promulgation of the Constitution, the Chinese
are happily signing agreements with Kathmandu. It
was reported that Nepal and China will soon
establish ‘a high-level mechanism to share
intelligence to contain anti-China activities in
Nepal’. So, no extraditions of anti-India
elements, but Tibetan refugees who try to flee
the most-repressive regime of the world will be sent back.

It is what was decided at the Nepal-China Border
Security and Law Enforcement Talks which recently concluded in Kathmandu.

Both parties agreed to set up focal points in the
respective home ministries in Kathmandu and
Beijing. A senior Nepali government official told
The Kathmandu Post: “The Chinese side assured
full support to enhance capacity building,
training of Nepali security personnel to be
deployed across the northern border, seeking
Nepal’s full commitment on information sharing on
anti-China activities with effective law
enforcement mechanism to contain the activities."

Worse for the Tibetans, the Chinese offered
‘logistic support’ worth 300,000 US dollars to
the Nepalis in the form of laptops, searchlights
or metal detectors. The Chinese Vice-Minister for
Public Security Chen Zhiming was pleased with
results of his stay in Nepal: "My visit is to
find out ways to strengthen the bilateral relations between Nepal and China."

The Nepalese have already started the deportation
of Tibetans crossing the border: three of them
have been handed over to the Chinese authorities
in early June 2010. According to Nini Gurung,
spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR): "It is a very serious issue and
we are extremely concerned." They were sent back
by helicopter with a Nepali escort (a politician accompanying them).

Since 1989, there was a ‘gentlemen's agreement’
between the government in Kathmandu and the
UNHCR: Nepal did not grant the refugee status to
the Tibetans, but they were allowed a safe
transit through Nepal en route to Dharamsala, India.

After the unrest on the Tibetan plateau in
March/April 2008, the Chinese repression against
the Tibetans was unanimously condemned. A report
of the Human Right Watch recently provided more
details: "the Chinese government has yet to
"reveal the fate of hundreds of Tibetans arrested
during the protests, or disclosed how many it has
detained, sentenced, still holds pending trial,
or has sentenced to extrajudicial forms of
detention." Nicholas Bequelin, who is based in
Hong Kong and worked for HRW, in an interview
with the French Daily Le Monde asked a pertinent
question: "What is the Chinese government trying
to hide by locking the entire Tibetan plateau
since the demonstration of March 2008."

Despite this, Kathmandu has tightened its border
with the TAR by deploying armed police near
several frontier passes. In early July, Nepal
banned the celebration of the Dalai Lama's 75th
birthday. The 20,000 or so Tibetans refugees
living in Nepal were asked to stay at home.

In the past, between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans
yearly crossed the Himalayas via Nepal on their
way to Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives.
After the events of 2008, the number of refugees nearly came to nil.

Vice-Minister Zhimin need not fume, "anti-China
activities taking in Nepal in the name of
religion and human rights are unacceptable to
China,” Nepal religiously obeys Beijing’s diktats.

This reminded me of an article published by
Mother India, a fortnightly magazine published in
Mumbai, a week after the Chinese invaded Tibet in
November 1950. The Editor wrote: "But Nepal, with
sixteen railroads leading directly into India
from her borders, appears to be the most likely
[next] objective [of the Chinese]. There may not
be direct attack at first, for the Gurkhas are
great fighters though their fighting abilities
may not weigh against overwhelming number and
better equipment. What is more likely is a
Communist penetration of the existing popular
movements a further working up of internal
disturbances dividing the political structure as
well the soldiery, and then the call by one party to China for aid.”

It is what has happened today.

In the meantime, a strange thing has been
reported: the former king of Nepal, Gyanendra's
family has started to make common cause with the
Maoists in Nepal. As Nepal is gearing itself
towards a third round of voting to designate a
prime minister on August 2, it has been reported
that former King Gyanendra's son-in-law, Raj
Bahadur Singh, has decide to support the Maoists
"by trying to buy off some constituent assembly
members particularly from the smaller parties."

The dual standard adopted by Kathmandu to deal
with China and India, as well as the games played
the Maoists and the royal family are worrying
trends. Is it possible to stop a further
deterioration of the already dramatic situation?
It is not easy to answer today.
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