[The author, Yubaraj Ghimire, is a veteran Nepali journalist, who had
turned pro-monarchy somewhere on the way.
Nevertheless, his comments and analyses deserve attention.]


The Chinese embrace
There are ominous signs for India in Beijing’s outreach to Kathmandu As the
India-China stand off over Doklam continues, Nepal, so far a neutral party,
will be hosting high-level visits from both countries.

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Published:August 7, 2017 2:16 am

The Global Times alleged that Indian troops had invaded Doklam in the name
of helping Bhutan. It claimed Indian leaders were using the incident to
“appease” domestic and international audiences and warned against using the
“Dalai Lama card”.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang will be visiting Nepal on August 14, barely
nine days before Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba embarks on an
official visit to India, his first after assuming the chief executive’s
post for the fourth time two months ago. In between, India’s External
Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be in Kathmandu for the BIMSTEC meet.

Certain political trends at home and China’s pro-active approach to
Kathmandu indicate that silence may seem a prudent response, but not
perhaps the desirable reaction at this moment for Nepal. Prime Minister
Deuba has been advised by some senior diplomats that the joint agreement
China and India signed in May 2015 to develop Lipulekh along the Kalapani
tri-junction between China, Nepal and India as a trade post should be
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pande claims China has
already assured Nepal that it is ready for a review. “With Doklam dispute
escalating, the Lipulekh issue must be settled now so that it does not turn
into a flash point in the future,” says a senior Nepali bureaucrat. He
added that Prime Minister Deuba has been advised suitably.
The Chinese vice premier is expected to encourage Nepal to decide on
projects and their execution under the Belt and Road initiative. Leader of
the main opposition group and former prime minister, K.P. Oli, who is
perceived by India as pro-China, was recently invited to Lhasa and
apparently briefed about the Chinese position on Doklam and given the
message that China respected the “sovereignty” of both Nepal and Bhutan.
Leaders close to Oli believe that China wants to engage Bhutan in a
bilateral dialogue over the border issue, while avoiding India.

China Briefs Envoys On Doklam Stand-Off: Our Troops Waiting Patiently,
Won’t Do So Indefinitely

The Chinese are now forthcoming and candid on bilateral or regional issues
when they share the platform with Nepali academics and other individuals.
Their remarks include barbed and sarcastic references to India and its
“interference” in Nepal’s internal politics. At times, they suggest that
the Indian way of dealing with Nepal recalls the “British legacy”.
Hu Shisheng, a director at the China Institutes of Contemporary
International Relations, a think tank with enormous clout on formulating
China’s neighbourhood policy, recently presented a paper on the occasion of
Nepal and China entering the 62nd year of diplomatic relations. The paper
suggests that China and Nepal establish “connections” through railways,
pipelines and highways. It also calls for Nepal to link China and India and
has a veiled prescription that Nepal should ignore India if it does not

Heeding the advice is not easy for Nepal, but China knows that anti-India
sentiment is unprecedentedly high in Nepal. China, officially, has been
full of appreciation for what Nepal has done to discourage anti-Chinese
activities on its territory. In most bilateral academic fora, China takes
pride in not having interfered in Nepal’s internal affairs. Hu, for
instance, indicates that two treaties Nepal and China signed in the past
have settled the British legacy as well as Tibet-related issues. He
emphasises that in the absence of the British legacy, Nepal and China can
treat each other as “equals”.

China also insists that it never supported the Maoist insurgency. It claims
that except for appealing to the Maoists to join the political mainstream
at times, it did not mastermind regime changes in Kathmandu, so frequent
since 1990. In contrast, India is seen to have promoted the Maoist
insurgency and subsequently, brought the Maoists to the political
mainstream, sidelining traditional forces and causing the current chaos.
China’s reference to the Maoist insurgency is significant since India has
been blamed for displacing the Oli regime last year with a coalition of the
Maoists led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the Nepali Congress led by Deuba.
Oli, buoyed by the clear lead the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist
Leninist gained in the recent local bodies election, has started making
claims that he would form the government at the Centre when Parliament
elections are held by January, as mandated by the constitution. Deuba is
also under pressure from powerful political groups in Nepal to tell India
that it should either execute the major hydro projects it undertook several
years ago or give up. These are signs India must not ignore.

India has lost goodwill in Nepal. Kathmandu knows that if the Doklam issue
escalates it will affect Nepal’s life and economy adversely. However, India
can’t be assured of Nepal’s support on the issue.

Peace Is Doable

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