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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?"

Trends in Nepal not good for India

August 15, 2010

Claude Arpi (
Indian Express
August 13, 2010

What is going on in Nepal? If one goes by the
latest news, nothing good for India. Why did
Shyam Saran, the prime minister’s special envoy
have to pay a quick visit to the former Himalayan
kingdom to meet ‘Prachanda’, the Unified
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman and
other political leaders? The answer is that
India’s special position in Nepal is waning fast,
very fast. After the meeting with Prachanda, a
spokesperson for the Maoists told the reporters,
“The special envoy made it clear that "he was not
here to impose his views on the formation of a new government."

But some sources said Saran requested the Maoist
leadership to clarify their stand vis-a-vis
multi-party democracy and the anti-India campaign. Their answer is not known.

Meanwhile, the Maoists, with the support of
Beijing, are clearly trying to change the status
quo. An article in a national newspaper gives a
significant example: "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."

But 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 as 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
Centre, a subsidy of the official Xinhua news
agency, announced on July 13 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 and it is probably why Saran
was sent on a last-chance mission. Kathmandu is
also keen 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 new 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 extradition 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 the
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
were 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. The dual
standards adopted by Kathmandu to deal with China
and India, as well as the games played by the
Maoists and some other political parties are
worrying trends. It seems difficult, especially
after Saran’s failed visit, to stop the situation from deteriorating further.
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