US, China and India have varied interest in Nepal

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Deepak Gajurel
Gajurel is a Political Scientist associated with the Tribhuvan University, Nepal. His key areas of interest are trends in International Power Struggle, with special focus in Himalayan Asia (South Asia plus China).
We invited this political scientist to our office, September 20, 2010, and talked on several issues that have its direct impact on Nepali politics. A suave Gajurel readily agreed to our request and made his candid observations which follows Chief Editor, Telegraphnepal.com
TGQ1: It is now being talked in Nepal’s academic circle that India is not alone but China too has begun taking interests in Nepal? Is that correct? Also tell us, if so, should we mean then that China has changed its policy vis-à-vis Nepal in the recent years? Your comments please.
Gajurel: Well, frankly speaking, China has had its interests in the South of the Himalayas from the very beginning. It still exists. Any country’s interests are just linked with preservation of its national security, expansion of its trade and diplomacy in the conduct with other nations. China in the past also had been exhibiting its interests in Nepal and its affairs.
To recall, as back as in 1961, the then Chinese Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Marshal Chen Yi had clearly stated that any interference in Nepal’s internal affairs from any quarters would be taken as an attack on China itself.
In the days that followed later, China kept close eyes on its interests in Nepal but in a very subtle manner. She never came in an exposed manner but adopted the theory of “quiet diplomacy”. It accomplished its tasks, whatever it was, in a quiet manner. At times China even used to acquire a mode of silence when she concluded that she could not do anything in Nepali affairs.
When India imposed an economic blockade on Nepal, it was widely believed and expected that China would come to the rescue of the Nepalese but it did not happen so instead China clearly suggested Nepal not to expect much from China because Nepal was very much closer to India.
This does mean that China, in the past, preferred not to come in an exposed manner. China used to express its reservations only when any acts that had its direct negative impact on China’s internal affairs.
But things or say politics have changed now.
China changed its strategies vis-à-vis Nepal after this country witnessed certain political changes in the recent years.
Mind it that during these past four years, some twenty plus high level Chinese delegations have already visited Nepal. The Chinese not only come to Kathmandu but more often than not talk about Nepal while being in Beijing as well. The policy of quiet diplomacy has turned into an aggressive diplomacy. This is clearly visible.
As regards to your supplementary question, well, it could have two to three reasons.
The first could be taken in a regional perspective. I prefer to call it Himalayan Asia which links the South Asian region with China.
While talking in terms of regional perspective, China too should be linked with it. The political changes that took place in this part of the world of late compelled China to take an aggressive posture. Either using the Indian or the Nepali soil, there have been some noticeable anti-China events which have increased exponentially over these years.
After a lapse of some three decades, anti-China slogans were chanted in the streets of Nepal. Both visible and invisible activities were noticed to have gone against China. Such acts may have sensitized the Chinese regime and may have concluded that such acts could in the long run pose a grave threat to its security.
Secondly, the Chinese may have inferred that if Nepal became politically instable, the society and government being weaker, the chances of foreign forces entering into Nepali affairs would be high, which eventually would be counterproductive to its national security. The Chinese pain would not be for the weakening of our (Nepal’s) nationalism aspect but her interest would be to preserve China’s prime interests in Nepal under such situation. This is how I see it.
TGQ2: So you mean that political instability in Nepal has its negative impact on China and its internal affairs? At yet another plane, some analysts claim that Nepal still remains an India-locked country? What say you Mr. Gajurel?

Gajurel: Any country which is close to becoming a world’s super power in the given world power equation remains suspect that it may be hit by some near or far. Precaution is needed most in such a situation and time. For example, Tibet is the weak point of mainland China and thus China has to remain alert more so because Tibet adjoins Nepal border in the North. May be due to these reasons, China had to change its previous policy of quiet diplomacy as regards Nepal because China felt that foreign powers began playing in Nepal in a brazen manner more so the India which began exerting excessive pressure on Nepal. That’s why China abandoned the policy of “defensive posture” to an aggressive one.
After the collapse of the then Soviet Union, the lone Super Power United States began increasing its presence in the Middle East, Korean peninsula, Africa, and South Asia. Remarkably, the increased US presence are the areas or say territories which were in the periphery of China. Moreover, the US presence in areas such as, Taiwan, South Korea, former Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Iraq has increased. China understands well that the United States of America can play from a weakened Nepali soil and watch the entire South Asian region.
China wants such a regime in Nepal, regionally and internationally, which may not pose a grave threat to its security interests.
Yes! Nepal was India locked country till yesterday. Now China has rejected this theory. Even in the past, China rejected this notion but in a very quiet manner.
As long as China wants and to the extent possible it can, it will now not allow the Indian hegemony in Nepal.
“We will not accept your hegemony in Nepal anymore and thus refrain from committing acts which are not in our national interests,” is the volley of messages that China in the recent months and days have been signaling to India. India has already received the Chinese signals. The Indian Prime Minister’s fresh statement that China poses a grave threat to India does testify the above mentioned thoughts.
TGQ3: It is being widely believed and analyzed by some political quarters that China now being a world power will have lesser interest in Nepal affairs than India-the regional power? Is it that a sort of conflict is going on in Nepal to undercut the Indian all pervasive influence in Nepal? Does China really want its increased influence in Nepal? How you see it?

Gajurel: No it is not what you have stated. It has been observed that China may have indicated India to act in whatever manner that suited to Indian interests South of the Himalayas in the past yet signaling India not to harm its prime interests. But at the moment one could see that China has flexed its muscles in terms of military, and finance the world over. In the mean time, China also noticed that anti-China activities have increased from the Nepalese soil in an unexpected manner. It is not that China can do anything she wants in the name of being a super power. However, China can take on an aggressive posture if its interests experience a threat. China has the right to preserve its security concerns.
The fact is that China has definitely kept India at a distance. This much is visible.
China has already indicated India that whatever you had been doing, let it be enough and must come to an end.
Well, as regards to your tagged question, I see three forces waging a proxy war in Nepal. Those three forces are, India, China and the United States.
Chinese interest in Nepal is to block the penetration of those forces which could pose a serious threat to its interests in Nepal.
India, on the other hand, India wants Nepal to remain under its sphere of influence. India wants its continuation from the days of Pundit Nehru who had said that Indian borders were up to the Himalayas in the North. Thus India wants Nepal turning at best, if possible, Sikkim or at least Bhutan.
The American natural interest in Nepal is to harass and create disturbances for China-the emerging world power, by being in Nepal in a firm manner.
Nepal is located in a very strategically significant position which is flanked by two emerging world powers. If China and India continue to develop in the way that they are today, then one fateful day these two powers can challenge the United States by being in the US soil itself. It is this concern perhaps which has been prompting the Americans to avert the looming danger from China.
The proxy war to some extent has been changing the pattern, it appears.
TGQ4: The increasing friendship of China with the South Asian nations apparently has been causing annoyance to the Indian regime to the extent that the Indian establishment has been saying that she is being cornered And pushed to a trap. Is that correct? But tell us, if, as and when, China and India come face to face, where Nepal will land or remain? Your opinions please.
Gajurel: Yes! They call it “String of Pearls”. The Indians claim that China has already made a garland of pearls in the vicinity. China by being in Pakistan is supporting Pakistan by building roads, funding in Hydro power projects and is also transferring advanced technologies to the host country.
The Sri Lankan President instead of procuring arms and weapons from India brought the same from China and well within one year, did away with the issue of the Tamils or say the LTTE. China is constructing a port in Sri Lanka in the area called Hambantola. China, for your information, is also constructing a port in Chitgong, Bangladesh. And do forget that the Chinese military have already landed in African continent.
Nepal is in a sheer dilemma. We have a habit of acting as per the instructions of alien forces. WE can’t say no to any forces fearing that while obeying the first, we may eventually annoy the second. This is our fear psychosis. The proxy war is on.
I see that India must tell that henceforth it will not exert pressures on Nepal which is what China wants. China wants this to become visible in Nepal affairs. If India acts as China wants, it would benefit India as well. But that is neither visible nor forthcoming. In effect, India wants to challenge China yet. But the fact is that India lags behind China by sixty years in terms of “strength”. In the meantime, India is in a disturbed situation in the recent days and weeks.
Looking the very presence of children and women folks in a recent Kashmir demonstration, the Indian prime Minister is learnt to have told that such events were a matter of serious concerns.
TGQ5: Let’s presume, from you have said, then that the continued failure in electing a new prime Minister for Nepal is the cumulative effect of the unseen India-China conflict? Do you think so? And what about the K.B Mahara-Chinese national audio tape affair? Will such incidents have grave impact on China-India relations? How would you interpret it?
Gajurel: Yes! It is. But the difference is there. China doesn’t want a new Nepal PM of its own choice. However, what is for sure is that China wants to negate the chances of a Nepal Prime Minister of India’s choice. China would welcome any government in Nepal that is capable enough to check the increased anti-China activities from the Nepalese soil. If this is not so then China will continue to exert its pressure. But India remains undeterred. Under the prevailing situation, naturally the Nepali leaders will experience excessive political pressure from both the quarters.
At the moment, just the telephone terror is in place. Tomorrow those who do not toe their dictates may even embrace death threat.
It is not altogether a new phenomenon in Nepali politics if one were to take the Mahara-Chinese national audio tape scam. But the tape, mind it, has wrapped the Beijing government. The Chinese embassy has clarified its position by stating that the Chinese government is not involved in the tape scam or whatsoever. Since then China has remained silent. But China must have kept in notice the insult that she have had to bear with from the other competing quarter. Even the US had so far not collected the courage to malign China in such a pinching manner. Let me presume that China will not respond to this matter from the Nepalese soil. China may acquire a different mode while responding to India. India eventually will have to pay heavily for this allegation on China.
The worldwide insult of China that India has dared to make could be taken as a Himalayan blunder committed by the Indian regime. That’s all.
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Deepak Gajurel