In 2020, reports began emerging that China was encroaching into Nepal by removing boundary pillars and constructing buildings despite the Nepal-China border having been ratified since 1960 and boundary pillars constructed all along
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Mao Zedong had said, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA are its fingers”. The China initiated and backed bloody Maoist insurgency in Nepal (1996-2006) resulted in the deaths of over 17,000 Nepalese (civilians, insurgents, army and police) and internal displacement of hundreds of thousands. Some 63,000 complaints were received by the Truth Reconciliation Commission while the Commission for Investigation of Enforced Disappearances received around 3,000. The Chinese aim was to install a regime in Kathmandu that would not be friendly with the US or India.
Chinese hard and soft powers have been focused on Nepal over past several years to control it politically and strategically. During communist regimes in Kathmandu, PLA soldiers in uniform were spotted by journalists in northern Nepal known to have uranium deposits. Pushpa Kamal Dahalalias ‘Prachanda’ told Nepalese media much before he became Prime Minister of Nepal, “The ultimate war will be with the Indian Army.” That is why Prachanda was being given the red carpet by Beijing even when he was not the Prime Minister.
Former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli is another Chinese puppet whose first prime ministerial tenure began in 2015. During his regime, Chinese nationals (PLA in disguise) even started manning three-star hotels in Kathmandu. By 2014, China had overtaken India as Nepal’s biggest foreign investor. During 2015, Nepal endorsed FDI proposal worth $360 million by China to establish a cement plant in Nepal - largest single FDI by China then.
Chinese hard and soft powers have been focused on Nepal over past several years to control it politically and strategically
During Oli’s second tenure as PM, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal in October 2019. Among the multiple bilateral agreements inked, most significant was intensifying execution of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to enhance connectivity, encompassing ports, roads, railways, aviation and communications within the overarching framework of Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
However in 2020, reports began emerging that China was encroaching into the Humla district of Nepal by removing boundary pillars and constructing buildings despite the Nepal-China border having been ratified since 1960 and boundary pillars constructed all along. This was also prominently reported in the Indian media. But Chinese protégé Oli vehemently denied Chinese encroachments and diverted attention by raising the Kalapani boundary issue with India.
After Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba took over the reins of Nepal in July 2021, he appointed a committee under a Joint Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs in September 2021 to investigate the issue. Leaked portions of report talked of China trespassing Limi-Lapcha area of Namkha Rural Municipality and constructing many buildings for the PLA.
BBC has now quoted this report to say that apart from removing border pillar in Limi-Lapcha and constructing almost a dozen large business complexes, China has deployedarmy guards to stop Nepalese from entering the area. Boundary pillars are also missing in several other places. PLA has encroached deep into Daulkha area and is also stopping locals in the Lalungjong area where several buildings have been constructed right on the borderline. PLA has also stopped Nepalese locals in many border villages from grazing their cattle in traditional areas.
Nepalese media reported on February 10, 2022, that China is using pretext of Covid prevention to restrict only 2-3 truckloads daily through the crucial trading posts because of which Nepal is losing millions of rupees
According to Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture, China has not only encroached in Humla and Daulkha but several other districts also including Gorkha, Darchula, Sindhupalchowk, Sakhnuwasabha and Rasuwa. All this indicates a huge Chinese backstab of Nepal.
Nepalese media reported on February 10, 2022, that China is using pretext of Covid prevention to restrict only 2-3 truckloads daily through the crucial trading posts of Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani because of which Nepal is losing millions of rupees. Ashok Shreshtha, President of the Nepal Trans Himalayan Border Commerce Association, says,“Since two years the trading with China has come down drastically. After the 2015 earthquake, Tatopani was shut down for almost four years, and later when it was opened, the border once was again shut down by Chinese authorities citing COVID which slowed down trading."
Terming it China’s unofficial blockade, Shreshtha said at least 300 trucks are stuck at Kerung and Tatopani border points for last 16 months. He said traders were incurring heavy losses; Chinese government is not issuing visas to Nepalese traders as a result of which, they are not ordering any goods from China. Nepal mainly exports carpets, handicraft items - traditional items to China. In addition to the blockade, China has also banned entry of Nepali citizens under pretext of Covid prevention. Nepalese MBBS students in China have been barred from entering the country, disrupting their course schedules indefinitely.
But despite the Chinese encroachment in Nepalese territory and hardship to Nepalese due to Chinese actions, Beijing has Nepal’s Maoists-communists eating out of its hands. Nepal adheres to the “One China” policy and had signed China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) when Maoist leader Prachanda was the Prime Minister in 2017. Recent reports reveal that Prachanda held an hour-long hush-hush virtual meeting in early February 2022 with Song Tao, head of the International Department of China’s Communist Party (CPC). Song Tao reportedly said that China wants to deepen traditional ties with Nepal's political parties based on mutual political trust.
Several spies from China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) have infiltrated Nepal in the guise of diplomats, journalists and even businessmen who are playing an active role in destabilising Nepal’s relations with other countries
China has had a free run in Nepal when Prachanda and Oli were the Prime Ministers. It is quite possible that the hour long Prachanda-Tao tête-a-tête was to chalk out a strategy to dislodge Nepal’s present coalition headed by PM Sher Bahadur Deuba who is perceived as pro-India and pro-West, and to bring the communists back into power. China’s ‘unofficial blockade’ of Nepal possibly is also part of the plan to destabilise the Deuba government.
In November 2021, Nepalese media, quoting a 50-page confidential document prepared by Nepal intelligence, reported that several spies from China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) have infiltrated Nepal in the guise of diplomats, journalists and even businessmen who are playing an active role in destabilising Nepal’s relations with other countries, particularly the United States, and is currently actively propagating and lobbying against the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact grant assistance provided by the US.Nepalese security forces have reportedly concluded that China’s top priority is to invalidate the MCC.
Under the MCC grant, Nepal is to receive $500 million in aid from the US. The MCC, signed in September 2017, is awaiting parliamentary ratification. Prime Minister Deuba wants the MCC to get through Parliament, but his coalition partner Prachanda, Chair of Maoist Centre, is creating roadblocks. On February 25, 2022, Deuba’s attempt to table the ratification of the MCC Nepal Compact in Parliament had to be postponed for a second time because of continuing China-sponsored protests in Kathmandu.
In 2020, Nepal Airlines grounded six Chinese planes; two of which were given as grant by China and four bought through government-to-government deal. Nepal still has to clear $35.1 million dues in repayment to China at a steep 1.5 per cent interest along with a service charge and management expenses of 0.4 per cent of the overall loan amount.
Finally, given Beijing’s puppets in the form of Nepalese Maoists-communists, how Nepal can escape from the vice like grip of China remains an open question.