Nepal | January 18, 2021

Political quake in the offing: Collision of Indian, Chinese political tectonic plates

JIBA RAJ POKHAREL
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Nepal should improve its economy as did China in the post seventies era. It could then be a force to reckon with even between giants like India and China as is Israel despite being surrounded by innumerable adversaries. But the ceaseless infighting between the leaders has generated hopelessness among the people

The glitz and glamour of the festivity that was substantially diminished this year due to the coronavirus has now quickly receded into the pages of history.

The attention has now shifted on the usual nuts and bolts of everyday life duly haunted by the scary corona. Even though the news of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown a glimmer of hope, they remind an average Nepali of the proverb meaning fruit of the sky, stare and die.

After the successful invention of a vaccine, it is the manufacture and distribution that pose the twin challenges. It is said that it will take a full one year to vaccinate half of the population of India even though India has the capacity to produce 60 million vaccines every month. One can imagine how long it will take to reach the poor and downtrodden in every nook and corner of Nepal.

It will certainly take longer if the party in power continues to be at sixes and sevens as at the present. It has as such been shattered by the political earthquake triggered by the arrival of the Chief of Research and Analysis wing of India, Sumanta Goel. Prime Minister Oli has been served with a long list of complaints by the opposing faction, seeking his ouster from one of the two responsibilities, the Prime Minister and the chairman of the party.

One of the towering complaints is related to the meeting of the Prime Minister with Goel carried out rather clandestinely. It has created such a ripple that the President of Nepal and the Chinese ambassador to Nepal had to receive both the ever feuding Oli and Dahal time and again, tarnishing the image of the high office of the President of Nepal and international diplomacy, respectively.

This impact was so powerful that it generated yet another aftershock in the visit of the Army Chief of India Mukunda Naravane in quick succession.

Though Naravane had come in the wake of a normal tradition, which consists of conferring the rank of honorary General after the appointment to the Army Chief in either country, his controversial statement about the border issue had raised eye brows in the political circle in Nepal.

Harsha Vardhan, the Indian Foreign Secretary, was the latest from India to visit the country. The visit of the Indian trinity against the backdrop of hushed silence between India and Nepal has certainly generated huge amounts of interest among the commons and connoisseurs alike.

Yet another political seismic energy appears to be building up in Nepal with the visit of the Chinese Defense Minister, Wei Fenghhe, from Sunday, immediately after the visit of the Indian triumverate. This is because physical earthquakes occur in Nepal due to the collision of the Indian and Tibetan (now China) plate. So, the physical phenomenon has a strange correlation with the political one.

History has shown time and again that Nepal is affected adversely when the Chinese peep deeper into the south across the Himalayas.

In the 7thcentury, during the reign of Emperor Stangchangompo in Tibet, the Chinese ambassador, Wang Huen Tse, was imprisoned by a feudal Arunaswa. The Licchavi king, Narendra Dev, enthroned with Chinese support in the year 643, had to rescue him by sending 700 Nepali with 1,200 Chinese cavalry.

After about a thousand years during the reign of Rana Bahadur Shah, trouble erupted with China while defending the interests of the Nepali businessmen in Lhasa. Chinese soldiers had penetrated as near as Jitpur. But the Nepali soldiers displayed incredible cunningness by putting the lamps in the bushes, trees and animals horns. The Chinese retreated, thinking that they were surrounded by Nepali soldiers in large numbers on the night of September, 19, 1792. A treaty was signed between both the countries, according to which Nepal had to take presents every year to China as a mark of subservience.

India has long since adopted a bonsai policy towards Nepal. It wants Nepal to remain under its security umbrella. It does not want Nepal to hobnob with China. India wants the other countries of the world to see it through its lens. Nepal, in turn, wants to spread its wings as any other sovereign nation. Consequently, it signed the Belt and Road Treaty with China. A country sandwiched between two giant counties has only a few alternates.

They are neutralism, reliance on other states and bandwagoning.

Nepal pursued the policy of neutralism till the early nineties when China and India were similar in economy.

It also tried reliance on other states by proposing it be made a Zone of Peace, but it was not to be.

Later, China achieved incredible growth, making its economy five times bigger than that of India.

The simple law of physics suggests an inclination or bandwagoning towards China. But the portrayal of Tibet as the palm and Ladakh, Bhutan, Arunachal, Sikkim and Nepal as the five fingers by Mao Tse Tung and annexation of Tibet have created paranoia in Nepal. President Xi, a protégé of Mao, may want his helmsman’s dream to come true.

Many Nepali people thus feel more comfortable with less territorially hungry India.

One may say that India too had annexed Sikkim, but it was following the verdict of the referendum.

Moreover, Nepal has the proximity of religion and culture with India. Economic deprivation of Nepal has added to its vulnerability.

Nepal should improve its economy as did China in the post seventies era. It could then be a force to reckon with even between giants like India and China as is Israel despite being surrounded by innumerable adversaries. Nepal had this expectation from the political stability attained after so many years. But the ceaseless infighting between the leaders has generated hopelessness among the people.


A version of this article appears in print on November 30, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


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