Photo: Binod Joshi/AP
China has pledged US$ 750 million assistance to Nepal during Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to Kathmandu on January 14. During discussion with his Nepali counterpart Dr Babu Ram Bhattarai, the Chinese leader was also positive to extend support for infrastructure development of the impoverished landlocked country which may run into more than US$ 5 billion. This shows the level of importance Beijing attached to its close door neighbour on the south.
Wen Jiabao’s Kathmandu visit has brought the relationship of the two countries to a new height. Of late, China is said pursuing a policy of alienating the neighbours from its adversaries. India has been dominating over the politics and economy of Nepal for ages. In view of changes in geopolitical situation with India’s closeness with the USA, Beijing now considers Nepal one of its security pillars. The importance of closer ties with Kathmandu has increased in view of growing threat it perceived from the Indo-US axis, which is out to support Tibetan separation movement and foment the trouble in Tibet from the soil of Nepal. Therefore, it is likely that China will extend liberal assistance to Nepal to enhance its capability in staving off anti-China activities from its soil.
It is interesting that Wen Jiabao flew to Kathmandu without prior announcement and stayed barely four and a half hours. His arrival was communicated to the government through diplomatic channel a day ago with request to keep it secret. Why this secrecy bereft of diplomatic norm? “Beijing has no trust on Nepali political parties,” explained a senior journalist in Kathmandu. He mentioned that the Chinese Prime Minister was scheduled to visit Nepal for two days December 21-22. His programme was much publicized in the media to the advantage of anti-China forces. Host of RAW officials flew from Delhi to Kathmandu. Pro-Indian Mahdesi political activists and Tibetan refugees planed demonstrations during the visit. RAW officials camping in cozy hotels met politicians and government officials to know every details posting security threat. Smelling rat, Beijing announced cancellation of the visit at the last moment. This time Beijing announced that Wen Jiabao goes on official visit to Dubai. And on way to Dubai he dropped in Kathmandu and stayed less than five hours.
About the drama displayed on the Chinese Prime Minister’s visit, observation of a former Nepali ambassador to Beijing is noteworthy: “We had to shelve the visit due to security concerns. This has given a clear message to China that the Nepali State does not have the capacity to protect Chinese concerns, and by extension, its own national interest.” China is fully aware of it and eager of financing such measures that will enhance the capability of protecting its national interest and concerns of Beijing as well.
Clearly, many Nepali politicians swayed by lust for money and power are tilted to New Delhi. Nepal’s long border with India is open. Nationalist forces are opposed to Indian hegemony. They claim India has encroached thousands of hectares of its territory. Bhattarai of UCPN (Maoist) heading the coalition government is known as pro-Indian. But political analysts say that although he is showing his tilt to Delhi, the party will maintain united to achieve single majority in the next election, consolidate its power and implement its objectives with the help of Beijing. UCPN (Maoist) has a strong base at the grassroots, with thousands of Young Communist League (YCL) supporters who are raising popular anti-Indian slogans. Nepali intelligentsia is now more explicit in accusing India for the Palace massacre a decade ago. King Birendra was killed for his attempts to become closer to China.
Meanwhile, phobia of military attack by China is rising in India. Defence analysts and some retired army officers have been predicting a brief war with China. “Chinese threat will only emerge in June/July this year” writes Col Anil Athale (retired). “It will not be an all out war but short, sharp, attack by the Chinese Army, more in the nature of slap – Kargil like foray by China.” Anil is coordinator of the Pune based think-tank, Indian Institute for peace, arms control and disarmament. He is also co-author of official history of the 1962 war with China.
Sharply reacting to Indian accord with Vietnam for joint exploration of oil in disputed waters in South China Sea, Chinese daily Global Times months ago had issued a stern warning. “India should bear in mind that its actions in the SouthChina Sea will push China to the limit.” The daily said China should take a more assertive position in its diplomacy.
Admiral Arun Praksh (retired) recalled the 1962 debacle when China taught a military lesson to India and raised doubt if history will repeat after 50 years. He viewed the security situation in the region is in state of flux. The impending American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the US-Pakistan divorce has potential to destabilize the region. China had very cleverly coordinated offensive against India in 1962 with Cuban Missile Crisis. The time may well be decided by the events in Afghanistan this year.
Apprehending Chinese attack, Bharat Verma, Editor ofIndian Defence Review, said “There are multiple reasons for a desperate Beijing to teach India a final lesson, thereby ensuring Chinese suppremacy in Asia.”
Indian Prime Ministger Dr Manmohan Singh in parliament last year expressed agony at the way Chinese leaders assert on matters of South East Asia and called for (military) preparedness to face up any eventuality.
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