File image of Nepalese PM K.P. Sharma Oli with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi | Photo: ANI
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepalese counterpart K.P. Sharma Oli | Representational image | ANI
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China’s claim to Nepali territory in its north-western district should be seen as part of its larger strategy to encircle India and pre-empt New Delhi from taking any unilateral action in the northern region, especially in the Pakistan-occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir. There has never been a dull moment in the history of the Himalayas since the time tribes started traversing the treacherous pathways for livelihood, trade and wars. While the cultural linkages of the Nepali region with India and its people are as old as the mountains, the new entrant, Beijing, doesn’t enjoy any such association, nor does it have the legitimacy to its claim on any part of the geography here.

After China’s sustained attempt to encircle India with String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean, the recent land grab in the Himalayas by Beijing should be interpreted as a string of infrastructure projects — railway stations and border trade centres in the hills — specifically aimed at encroaching India’s immediate neighbourhood.


Also read: India’s answer to China’s Claim Line also lies in 1959


Beijing’s land grab in Nepal

According to media reports from Kathmandu, China has occupied land in about 11 places in four districts of Nepal, all along the Nepal-Tibet border. The residents of Rui village in Gorkha district were agitating for identity document from Nepali authorities when they were, reportedly, presented with Chinese documents. Another media report says that China has occupied six hectares of land near Bhagdare Khola (river) area and substantial land in a relatively less inhabited Liho area in Karnali in Humla district. Besides, there are reports that Chinese soldiers are camping in Sinjen Khola and Bhurjuk Khola in Rasuwa district. China has also occupied substantial land in Kharane, Sindhu Pal, Samjung and Arun river bed in the north-eastern district of Sankhuwasabha — famous for its cardamom farming and ancient Shiva Temple. Its proximity to Doklam Valley and Siliguri corridor makes it an extremely strategic area and a potential threat to India’s security.

China built the Araniko highway in the 1960s, passing through Kodari, which became a popular trade centre at the border crossing in Sindhupal Chowk. After the 2015 earthquake, China closed down the Kodari border crossing and moved the local market and its population to Shigatse. The Lhasa-Burang railway line passing through Nanggarze, Shigatse, Lhatse, Tingri, and Gyirong will finally link with Gilgit and join the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Incidentally, when Nepal issued a new map claiming Indian territory as their own, the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs had dismissed the amendments to the map as amounting to “artificial enlargement of claims that are not based on historical fact or evidence and is not tenable”. As per media sources, although successive Nepali governments realised China had been annexing their land, they preferred to remain silent, not able to summon enough courage to protest due to the debt trap syndrome.


Also read: Xi hails ‘steady’ China-Bangladesh friendship, seeks joint promotion of Belt & Road Initiative


Xinjiang and Tibet in 1950s, Nepal now

By consolidating its position in the Galwan Valley and increasing the presence of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops even as military-level talks with India are ongoing, China has already signalled to New Delhi of the futility of waging a war, much less even preparing to confront it in the high altitude. With the laying of claim to a village in the Humla region in Nepal, China has made its intentions clear—it is prepared for a long-drawn conflict that will ultimately benefit Beijing as it happened in the case of occupation of Xinjiang and Tibet in the 1950s.

While the erstwhile Soviet Union was aggressively enlisting client States and increasing its geography rapidly after the spoils of the Second World War were apportioned, China was quietly nibbling away territories in all directions. This gave it a tremendous advantage vis-a-vis countries it never shared borders with when it became the People’s Republic of China in 1948. Occupation of Xinjiang and Tibet entitled China to share borders with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union extended a readymade advantage to Beijing to step into the former’s shoes. In a smart and calculated move, China did not pursue the ideological doctrine of the USSR. Instead, it concentrated on the trade, commerce and soft power aspects, and increased its footprint in Central Asia, South Asia, South-East Asia, the Indian Ocean Rim Region and the Asia-Pacific, called the Indo-Pacific now. In continuation of its strategy and outreach, China extended its signature scheme of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Pakistan through CPEC, which connects China to the Indian Ocean by a road passing through Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.


Also read: What’s the 1959 claim line? The one China says it’s following in the Ladakh stand-off


India’s opportunity in Pakistan’s distress

For more than three weeks now, people of Gilgit-Baltistan areas have been protesting to reject the imposition of Islamabad’s laws on them because, according to them, the region does not belong to Pakistan. The rebellion against the Pakistan Army has already reached alarming proportions in Balochistan. Events in Sindh, in general, and Karachi, in particular, are portents of another serious secessionist movement in that area. At the root of all these protests is the loot and plunder of resources by the clique that rules Islamabad, practically turning the country into a satellite of China. The turf war between the army and the political establishment is adding to the uncertainty in Islamabad. Meanwhile, the combined opposition has called for another round of fresh protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

At such a juncture, all that New Delhi needs to do is to keep the two adversaries, China and Pakistan, guessing about its next step. While Pakistan is collapsing due to the weight of its own contradictions, its utility for Beijing is at the lowest possible stage. The political standoff and anti-army atmosphere has reduced the army’s capabilities to protect Chinese assets in CPEC.

Little wonder that Beijing is turning to Nepal for support and as a launchpad for anti-India activities. The tottering political establishment, run by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, living far beyond its expiry date as Beijing’s proxy in Kathmandu is more than willing to bend over backwards to barter away its sovereignty to China.

New Delhi will also have to warn the Oli government that allowing China to use Nepal’s territory for anti-India activities and endangering India’s national security will invite an appropriate response.

The author is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. Views are personal.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. India is not able to handle itself , what will it handle other countries . Even Bangladesh is performing better .

  2. India is at war, with Pakistan, China, now Nepal……….bad relations with Bangladesh……………and what has it achieved?? ……………..Modi govt is taking India down the drain |!!!

    • The present crisis is because of Modi Governments resistance to Chinese misadventure. The previous Government was sleeping when China was grabbing our territories. Bharath needs Modi

  3. How about India encroaching the Nepalese land specially in the western Nepal. According to the treaty signed then by British and Nepalese Governments, the borders of Nepal is west of Kali river. Anyone can google earth and you can see the orgin of kali river which lies much further west than What India says. Almost 365 sq kilometers of land that is occupied by India.
    P.S. I am not a fan of China either. I love India, its people, food, culture but stop being a bully and big step brother.

    • Correct, nepal loves india, but india does not reciprocate, indians need to engage positivelt, listen, and respond…1st agree buddha was born in nepal, be ready to come up with novel land sharing idea in kalapani, stop putting silly trade barriers on nepal’s exports of ginger and cardamom, … treat nepal as a friend, don’t take for granted

  4. You have one question to answer and if possible write next article- Will India invade Pakistan to regain Gilgit Baltistan if China invades Taiwan? Is that a possible scenario?

  5. Read a column by Professor Bhim Bhurtel, a Nepali academic, in Asia Times Online. Titled, a little provocatively, India is nowhere in the world; denial won’t work. The elite in New Delhi delude themselves by thinking the country can hold its own on the world stage. 2. He examines the central theses of The India Way : Strategies for an Uncertain World by Dr S Jaishankar. He also discusses India’s position in the Global Hunger Index, Andy Mukherjee’s recent column that India must first beat Bangladesh before becoming the next China and the WEF’s World Inclusive Development Report. Also disses Quad for good measure. 3. India as seen by the rest of the world and as we see ourselves are becoming two different movies.

    • I read the article in full. The academic mentions the GHI as proof that the masses in india re starving to death, when in fact GHI is more a indicator of malnutrition, which can be due to either deficit or surplus of micronutrients, anaemia, etc. Try watching shekhar guptas cut the clutter on the same to understand the problem instead of having a shallow understanding that the academic seems to have. India being a majorly vegetarian country has greater difficulty than most neighbours, which is further compounded by the sheer size of the population, but recent introduction of bio fortified crops offers a promising solution. Reports indicate that the ‘elite’ had taken cognisance of the GHI issue back in 2017 when india ranked 102. Research by government agencies has led to the development of bio fortified varieties and reports suggest that these varieties will be made mandatory within 2-4 years.

      Secondly for evaluating HDI India definitely is lagging bangladesh, but solutions ranging from swacch bharat and jal shakti mission, all aimed at providing fundamental facilities for human development through community participation and behavioural changes. Government incentivised community driven development trumps the big government model of development because of the same reason. A community can prosper only through their proactive understanding and participation in solving these issues, and such an approach has less scope for corruption by powerful government officials. The advent of mass media has allowed acceleration of such a growth model and india is solving many long entrenched problems permanently due to this approach.

      Thirdly regarding QUAD and power projection. These are not aimed solely at chest thumping and gaining politically. This power projection is partially responsible for increased inflow of FDI, and greater motivation of domestic industries to provide many solutions to pressing problems. The author instead seems to think that big government schemes is the solution to indian economic problems. That approach failed in india for 4 decades after independence, and the sustainable way forward is increased private participation and social/capital driven growth. QUAD and power projection, protecting territorial integrity, are essential for all this. India’s goal is not to become the next china but to become the best India. The author of the asia times unfortunately fails to understand that, cherry picks data to suit his argument and suggests that india should focus solely on its internal issues before engaging with the global community, when in reality, a engagement with the global community is essential for accelerated growth…
      .

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