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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Opinion: China, India & Nepal's Maoists

November 26, 2009

Republica (Nepal)
November 26, 2009

Subsequent to a series of crises, self-incurred
or else, the Maoists stepped down in May 2009
after leading a coalition government for nearly
nine months. While in office, they irked the
coalition partners with their one-upmanship and
antagonized the Indian establishment – the most
powerful force in Nepal’s realpolitik – by trying
to be closer to China. Furthermore, they decided
to sack the army chief as a first step of their
secret plan (which was later leaked to the media)
to seize power, sending shock waves across the
political spectrum, both domestic and international.

However, it was overturned by the president at
the behest of 18 political parties, which
included parties in the ruling coalition as well.
Consequently, an isolated prime minister chose to
resign from office. Now in opposition – despite
being the largest party in the
legislature-parliament – the Maoists obstructed
the proceedings of the House for nearly six
months before letting it function for three days
in order to pass the budget. Since they resigned,
they have also continuously launched street
protests to oppose the president’s
‘unconstitutional’ move and, of course, to return to power.

Inviting China to counter India will be a
blunder. What our leaders should understand is
that if kowtowing to Indian pressures will
undermine our nationality, inviting the Chinese
to counter the Indians will endanger it.

Thereafter, the Maoists tried to play China
against India alleging that the latter was behind
the president’s move. Their calculation that
China, the country deemed able to counteract
Indian influence in Nepal, will support them on
grounds of ideological brotherhood, proved wrong.
First, because China’s foreign relations are not
guided anymore by Marxist affiliations; in
post-Mao China they are determined by national,
economic and business interests. Under a
communist identity, China has paradoxically been
pursuing free-wheeling capitalism since the past
30 years and the experiment has been a great
success bestowing tremendous benefits upon her.
As such, she is no longer interested in fraternal alliances.

Sino-Indian relations, too, notwithstanding
periodic disagreements, have come a long way
since the sixties despite unresolved border
disputes. The two nations are no longer the
warring enemies of 1962. China’s favorable
balance of trade with India has been bulging
every year, so have investments between the two.
China wouldn’t risk losing those and other
benefits just for the sake of Nepal’s Maoists.

The smoothness of terrain, stronger ties of
geography, history and culture, the scale and
intensity of people-to-people contacts and
economic linkages and open and active borders,
apart from being Nepal’s only viable passage to
international waters and skies, are geopolitical
advantages India enjoys over China vis-à-vis
Nepal. The Maoists knew this. That is why they
maintained excellent rapport, albeit discreetly,
with the Indian establishment all the while they
were underground and even afterwards despite
their anti-Indian rhetoric, a favorite of all
Nepali communists. Covertly, both used each
other, especially to get rid of Nepal’s monarchy
--their shared enemy. That is why, no later than
their ‘China card’ went astray, the Maoists tried
to mend fences with India by sending feelers and
paying visits. The effort continues.

As a strategic buffer between India and herself,
who shares the second-longest international
border of her politically sensitive province of
Tibet, China wants Nepal to contain anti-China
activities of Tibetan exiles within its
boundaries. She also wishes that Nepal maintain a
somehow balanced relationship between the two
neighbors. That is all the Chinese expect from
Nepal. On her part, Nepal too has always taken
care of Chinese interests no matter who is in
power. Even if Nepal wants, it cannot do
otherwise. The military offensive against
(Tibetan) Khampa rebels 35 years ago is a case in point.

Before 2006, the northern neighbor regarded
monarchy as the most stable force and permanent
friend of China in Nepal and counted on its
support. Now, with monarchy gone, they have
changed the policy of relying on a single ally.
The CPN-UML during their first stint in office in
1994-1995 tried behind closed doors to present
itself as an ideological ally but the Chinese did not oblige.

Naïve in international diplomacy, Nepal’s
communists often mistake the invitations for
visit and other goodwill gestures from China as
affirmations of political affinity. The Chinese,
who believe only in state-to-state relations,
keep inviting party leaders for goodwill or
familiarization trips irrespective of
international links or ideology of their guests.
Recently, during one such trip, Maoist leaders
tried to ‘discuss’ about the Indians but the
Chinese side preferred not to reciprocate.

Nepal needs to build her capacity to act
independently of Indians. This may be a slow
process like nation-building, yet this is the
only right process and also a part of
nation-building. Inviting China to counter India
will be a blunder. What our leaders should
understand is that if kowtowing to Indian
pressures will undermine our nationality,
inviting the Chinese to counter the Indians will
endanger it. Rightly equated by our wise
forefathers as a yam between two boulders, Nepal
cannot afford to play our two giant neighbors against each other.
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