Posts tagged ‘Nepal’

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

China’s “Core Interests” are becoming peripheral

With the national security law, it has become even clearer that the term refers to what Chinese leaders see as three sacrosanct rights of the nation,

the New York Times (NYT) noted in July 2015:

maintaining the political system, with unquestioned rule by the Communist Party; defending sovereignty claims and territorial integrity; and economic development.

That represented “a considerable expansion” of China’s previous “core-interest” concept, which had been believed to refer to Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

The NYT article described a history of expanding the concept. Earlier this year, probably under the flag of “economic-development core interest”, it has reached South Asia.

Arguing that most of India’s “peripheral countries are also Beijing’s neighbors”, a “Global Times” author wrote on March 21 this year that

When an increasing number of Chinese companies get established in these countries, it is inevitable that Beijing will boost defense collaboration with them to protect not only China’s, but also the region’s interest.

If India tried to “balance China” in the region, rather than being part of the pursuit of China and regional countries for common development, grave consequences would be in the pipeline:

If such tendencies in India continue, China will have to fight back, because its core interests will have been violated. This is not what we hope for, but the ball is in India’s court.

In short: with the core interest of economic development comes defense collaboration abroad.

The core is becoming peripheral.

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Related

Your Sea is our Sea, my Sea is my Sea, July 16, 2015
The Stupid Little Mermaid, March 12, 2009

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Monday, July 19, 2010

India-Pakistan: a Case for a New Approach

All India Radio‘s (AIR) external service usually runs an enjoyable program in English for its overseas listeners. But sometimes, one could do without their news commentary – that’s when they are flooded with demands on how Pakistan should do its homework in making the region safer. Many of these demands may be entirely justified – but when it can make an outsider feel inundated with prayer wheel of serial complaints, actual recipients, and other regional listeners, may get bored.

Complaints about China building a string of pearls seem to ask for a comprehensive Indian strategy of its own, too, rather than bitching. To be “upset” may be a natural reaction. A naval (diplomacy)  strategy – in progress – may be a useful reaction. But while much of Sri Lanka’s cozy relations with Beijing can be attributed to America keeping its distance, given Colombo’s dismal human rights record, another factor, referred to as  India’s concept of its neighbors’ client states status by the Vancouver Sun‘s Jonathan Manthorpe, certainly plays a role, too. Using China for hedging purposes is a natural reaction from India’s neighbors.

India’s press is constantly full of advice. One that might catch the eyes these days is this one:

Bilateral talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan held in Islamabad on 15 July 2010 ended in an unseemly public spat at a press conference,

writes Arvind Gupta of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi, and finds that the positions on both sides have hardened. India should engage with Pakistan’s real decisionmakers, suggests Gupta:

It is in the nature of India-Pakistan relations that emotions overtake reason and important issues are lost sight of. In the present episode, Qureshi is being held as a villain but the fact is that he is a minor player in the scheme of decision making in Pakistan. His demeanour may have played a role in the breakdown of the talks but that role would at best be minor. The real decision makers in Pakistan continue to be the army. The civilian government has little freedom, if any, in decision making. The Americans have understood this. They prefer to deal directly with the military. The dealings with the civilian authorities are only for the sake of form.

India needed to understand that while Pakistan’s army was no longer in charge of the country’s day-to-day affairs, it was still the key decisionmaker on strategic issues: policy on Afghanistan, India, US and China, writes Gupta.

Besides, once tempers had cooled, India should think about

reaching out to the non-official sections of Pakistani society. After all, Pakistanis talk to the Kashmiri separatists all the time in full public knowledge. Why can India not develop links with those sections of Pakistani society who may have views different from that of the government? India has legitimate interests in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is an integral part of India.

Whatever steps may be taken to improve India-Pakistani relations, smaller but tangible ones look more promising than big projects. On Monday, Kabul and Islamabad signed an agreement that would grant land-locked Afghanistan  transit through neighbouring Pakistan,  and therefore access to the sea, and – indirectly – markets in India. It might do regional security a lot of good – even if India is no immediate stakeholder in the deal.

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Related
“Military foiled Talks”, Hindustan Times, July 18, 2010
China’s Neighborhood, July 18, 2010
China, India Invest in Africa, FTKMC, June 28, 2010
“Reflecting the Diversity”, November 4, 2009
Nepal (Tag) »

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nepal’s “new” Government: Little to Celebrate

The Nepalese Maoists allege  that foreign powers, especially India, played a role in the downfall of their government and the formation of the new coalition, reports the BBC. The previous government, headed by Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Prachanda, had resigned after Nepal’s president had invalidated the sacking of the country’s army chief, General  Rookmangud Katawal.

Katawal, on his part, had ignored calls to integrate former Maoist fighters into the army, thus violating the peace agreement. If India played a role in the downfall of the Maoist-led government or if it didn’t remains to be seen. There is reason to be hopeful that Nepal’s southern neighbor will play a reasonably constructive role, given that India’s  Congress Party, not the Hindu Nationalist Party, have  won the general elections this month.

I’m not trying to judge if sacking the army chief was a “mistake”, as new prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal says, or if the sacking procedure chosen by Prachanda was, etc.. But the army chief is an obstacle to peace.

If this translation of a January 2008 speech is accurate, Prachanda may be an obstacle to peace, too. There are two ways to interpret how the Maoists became Nepal’s strongest party. One is that they were most popular. Another is that they blackmailed the voters into voting for them, as a continuation of the civil war would have been the only alternative. In that light, the army chief’s refusal to integrate the fighters – or a substantial number of them – looks understandable. But the peace agreement must be honored. The Economist highlights the background of the struggle between the two sides – and the point where the country’s old elites, the Nepalese Congress Party and the Communist UML, and the president for that matter, are making a mistake indeed:

The difficulty of making a non-Maoist government is a clue to how misguided it would be. Mostly drawn from Kathmandu, a pampered capital, the Maoists’ opponents have consistently underestimated them and the rural grievances that fuelled their struggle.

The Economist, May 16, 2009, page 59

238 members of the 601-members parliament are Maoists. If Nepal’s political leaders fail to write a constitution, there will be another civil war. The risk of integrating Maoist fighters into the army may lead to civil war, too – but not as easily. Both China (a permanent UN security council member) and India (campaigning to become one) should show responsibility and help Nepal to find peace, rather than betting on expanding their own influence.

But usually, nations follow their own interests, rather than acting as Papa Christmas for others. The safest way to peace and prosperity is for the Nepalese to understand their own country’s national interests.

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Related: Nepal’s (potential) Tibet Dividend, March 6

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nepalese Prime Minister sacks Army Chief

Nepal’s Communist UML Party has withdrawn from the Maoist-led government after a special cabinet meeting had sacked General Rookmangud Katawal for defying government orders to integrate former Maoist rebel fighters into the army. Maoist prime minister retains a small majority after the UML withdrawal.

The United Nations’ mission in Nepal supports the integration, while the Nepalese Congress Party, the Supreme Court rather oppose it. According to the UML, prime minister Prachanda ignored a call by the UML to find consensus among all political parties before deciding on the army chief.

If the Maoist government should lose its majority, it could be a step into India’s direction – or one into another period of civil war.

– Update: Nepal’s President tells Army Chief to stay, BBC, May 4

Related: Nepal’s potential Tibet Dividend, March 6

Saturday, April 11, 2009

India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Program: Infrastructure for Educational Institutions

India is providing grant assistance of 90.82 billion rupees*) to Nepal for creating requisite infrastructure for educational institutions. Three separate Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were signed today (Thursday) by the Embassy of India, Kathmandu with concerned district development committees and beneficiary organizations.

These included providing grant assistance of 2.92 million rupees to Shree Mahendra Rastriya Secondary School , Baluwatar in Kathmandu, 35.93 million rupees to Shree Mangalmaya Higher Secondary School, Lakhanpur-1 in Jhapa district and 31.97 million rupees to Purbanchal University for upgrading of 5.2 kilometers access road to the University in district Morang.

According to a press release issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu today, these projects are being undertaken in response to requests from respective District Development Committees and in consultation with the government of Nepal. The projects will be implemented as small development projects under the India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Program.

All India Radio (AIR) News, April 9, 2009

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*) apparently some 1.8 billion US dollars (if rupees refer to Indian rupees), by April 11

Related:
Countrystudies: India’s foreign policy, Nepal, from the 1950s to 1990s
Countrystudies: Nepal’s foreign policy from 1858 to the early 1990s
Nepal’s (potential) Tibet Dividend, 6 March, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nepal’s (potential) Tibet Dividend

Last year, Germany news magazine Der Spiegel was accused of anti-Chinese bias for putting pictures of Indian and Nepalese police wrestling Tibetan protesters, with captions about China’s crackdown in Tibet. Doing that wouldn’t be factual this year either, but it would come closer to the facts than a year ago. Nepal’s authorities have recently put a ban on all demonstrations and gatherings within 200 meters around Beijing’s embassy, and its consular outlet in Hattisar. The measure came at Chinese requests, according to nepalnews.com.

nepal_friendship_treaties2March 10 will see the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, or, in Beijing’s words, a revolt of a “few reactionaries manipulated by foreign powers” 1). To keep those few reactionaries down in Nepal, too, Beijing is willing to spend a lot of money. When Nepal’s prime minister Dahal asked the Chinese government to support the construction of 400 MW Narsinghgad hydro-power project in Jajarkot and urged Beijing to help Nepal in infrastructure building and development of Special Economic Zones in February, China’s assistant foreign minister Liu Jieyi (刘结一) said that Beijing would be happy to support Nepal in its development projects.

Tibet may not be the only reason for Beijing to offer Kathmandu economic favors, but it is an important one. During January and February of this year alone, at least three Chinese delegations .. visited Nepal, seeking assurance that protests similar to those last year wouldn’t reoccur, writes sindhtoday.com.

Barring Tibetan protesters from “sensitive”, albeit very public areas like the ones surrounding China’s diplomatic missions probably looks like a modest price to pay in return for Beijing’s support. Nepal is in dire straits economically and socially. After ten years of civil war, the once-guerilla Maoists are now leading the country’s government. But the army chief is blocking integration of the Maoists’ armed cadres into the national military. And after years of civil war, and with the background of the global economic crisis, help from Beijing could help the Maoists to gain legitimacy as a ruling party.

India, Nepal’s southern neighbor, shows no public anger about the rapprochement between Nepal and Beijing, and reportedly, India’s foreign minister Shivshankar Menon stated at a press conference in Kathmandu that agreements between Nepal’s and China’s governments were “an internal affair of Nepal”. But general elections will be held in India by May this year. India in general, and the Hindu nationalist BJP in particular, seem to view increased Nepal China relations as security threats to India. While Nepal’s security forces are suffering from rivalry between the national army and the Maoists’ troops, challenges are rising from the Southern Terai plains, home to numerous ethnic-separatist groups with murky links to smugglers, bandits and Hindu fundamentalists in India. 2) At the same time, Maoists are active in several Indian states.

The United Nations have made military integration in Nepal a priority. But this is exactly the field where secretary Ban Ki-moon saw very little – if any – progress in January. And neither China nor India will be of much help – while the Maoists are Beijing’s proxies, one can be sure that India would prefer to see the Nepali Congress Party, now Nepal’s biggest opposition party, in government, and that it is quietly backing the army in its intransigence 3), concerning the intergration of Maoist troopers.

Looking at Nepal’s general situation, India has reason to be confident – and comparatively relaxed – about Kathmandu’s current hobnob with Beijing. In ethnic terms, Nepal is much more connected with India than with China. Economically, too. In a commentary on March 3, All India Radio (AIR) pointed out India’s advantages.

Indian firms are the biggest investors in Nepal, accounting for about 44% of total approved foreign direct investment of over 346 mn US-D and also for 28.2% or 1281 operating ventures with foreign investment. China is only the second-largest investor with just about 12% share in cumulative investment, and Japan is third with 10% share. 4)

These are no huge numbers, and positions can easily be reversed, but in more general terms of global trade, what China can offer Nepal is also limited. The closest (and only practical) sea ports for Nepalese trade with overseas countries are in India. As a trading partner, China doesn’t (yet) feature prominently either.

India’s general elections may have some, or a big effect on Nepal’s development. The incumbent India Congress Party seems more willing to respect Kathmandu’s choices, than the Hindu BJP would.

But above all, Nepal’s future will depend on the ability of its own politicians to cooperate amongst each other, at least when it comes to issues of strategic importance. More independence from India would be not only in the Maoists, but even in Nepal’s Congress Party’s interest. So far, the country’s political culture doesn’t look mature at all. “To hear the [political party] leaders describe one another in private, their unity seems as amicable as that of fighting cats trapped in a bag”, wrote the Economist in 2007 5), and given the UN’s January report, things haven’t become nicer so far.

Nepal could actually profit from Beijing’s uninspired Tibet policy and its exigencies, if Nepalese politicians got their act together. But that’s a big “if”.

1) Economist, Feb 28, 2009, p. 16
2) Economist, Mar 31, 2007, p. 62
3) Economist, Jan 17, 2009, p. 50
4) All India Radio, Daily Commentary, Mar 3, 2009
5) Economist, Mar 31, 2007, p. 63

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dalai Lama Envoy on Nepal Mission

“Chope Paljor Tsering, the health minister of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile, arrived on a low-key visit in Kathmandu on Wednesday from Dharamsala in India to interact with foreign officials, NGOs and Tibetan refugees living in settlements spread across Nepal. He will be in Nepal till October 23.”

Beacon Online, October 12 >>

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