China after years of feigning that other than its interests in assisting Nepal in its economic development and maintaining friendly relations has ever since India gifted away Nepal to Nepalese Maoists directly and implicitly to China’s direct influence been busy in enlarging its security stakes in Nepal. This has also been facilitated by the unending Constitutional crisis in Nepal in which India has been unable to retrieve lost ground to re-establish its traditional influence to maintain Nepal as a strong and stable buffer state between India’s heartland in the North and China-Occupied Tibet.
In my Column on Nepal on 3rd April, 2011 I had covered the visit of the Chinese Army Chief and his initiatives to sign Defense Cooperation Agreements directly with the Nepalese Army Chief instead of signing the same as per protocol with the Nepalese Defense Minister. It was also pointed out that the Chinese Army Chief’s visit focused on China’s strategy to cultivate The Nepal Army as its asset to replace the lost ground in losing the Nepalese Monarch who was cultivated by China to be able to influence developments in Nepal
China’s Army Chief also pushed with Nepalese dignitaries that Nepal must exercise greater control over Tibetan refugee exiles staying in Nepal. He also wanted that in particular, Nepal should curb the activities of the ‘Free Tibet’ group in Nepal. ‘Free Tibet’ movement is a world wide freedom movement spearheading the war of liberation of Tibet from China’s military colonial rule and brutal oppression. It has widespread support in the United States and Europe.
Nepal like India has been putting down Tibetan demonstrations in Nepal against China mindful of China’s sensitivities.
China in a bid to enlarge its security stakes in Nepal by pushing Nepal to request extension of the Chinese railway link to the Nepalese border with Tibet and thereafter to Katmandu. It does not need much emphasis that such a link would act as a ‘force multiplier’ for the Chinese Army to rapidly move Chinese Army formations to Nepal’s borders with India. This magnifies the China threat to India.
Reflective of China’s greater stakes in Nepal which are patently India-Centric is the change of Chinese Ambassadors in Nepal. The previous Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Quin Guoheng was as per Nepalese media reports shunted out of Nepal in end April 2011 on grounds that he had been unable to exercise influence with the Nepalese Government in inhibiting the anti-China activities of the ‘Free Tibet Movement’ in Nepal. Another reason attributed by the Nepalese media is that the removed Chinese Ambassador had developed serious differences with the Chinese Defense Adviser in the Chinese Embassy over the issue of developing ‘direct Chinese contacts with the Nepalese Army’.
Be as that may, what is noteworthy is that China is reported to have nominated a top security expert as the new Chinese Ambassador to Nepal. Ordinarily one would have expected an old Nepal- hand from the Chinese Foreign Service to be nominated as its next Ambassador to Nepal.
China has nominated the present Chinese Ambassador for Korean Peninsula Affairs as its next Ambassador to Nepal. He is reputed to be a top security expert and can therefore be expected to apply a greater strategic purpose to pursue China’s strategic and security interests in Nepal.
So what does the developing picture in Nepal present to India in terms of security challenges?
India was already facing a Nepal used extensively by Pakistan Army intelligence ISI as a springboard for disruptive activities against India and developing Pakistani modules in India from its Nepal base. India would now be additionally faced with increased Chinese intelligence activities against India generated from Nepalese soil.