The ongoing political crisis in Nepal has caught the attention of the world. The casual observer may be forgiven for dismissing it as an isolated incident, caused by the internal fault lines in Kathmandu’s ruling political dispensation. This is both an incorrect and a dangerous assumption, since it overlooks the radical changes which are being pushed in Nepal by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). While PM K.P. Sharma Oli’s recent behaviour is the most visible part of the CCP’s influence in Nepal, there is far more that needs to be recognised.
Ever since the Nepal Communist Party led coalition regained power in Kathmandu in 2018, the CCP has unleashed a multi-pronged strategy to bring the Himalayan nation under its absolute control. The trademark Chinese strategies of ‘debt trap through development’ and ‘territorial salami slicing’ have been supplemented by overt ‘political interference’ and ‘social engineering’. In the last two years alone, the effects of this all-out effort have been felt by the people of Nepal across their country. This is an example of the CCP using its Sun Tzu inspired playbook for ‘winning without fighting’, and it is vital that the people of Nepal as well as all stakeholders in Nepal’s future, realise the gravity of the situation and act before it is too late.
The principal manifestation of China’s interest in Nepal is the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network. 20 projects associated with this Network were signed between the two countries, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative when Xi Jinping visited Kathmandu in October 2019. Xi’s visit was the first by a Chinese Head of State in 23 years and underscored the growing importance of Kathmandu in Beijing’s plans for South Asia. Interestingly, the centre piece of this Network is a Kathmandu-Kerung railway line, which is estimated to cost 2.3 billion USD. This approximates to 10% of Nepal’s GDP – how the project would ever become economically viable remains unclear. If anything, the major quantity of trade carried would be from China to Nepal, which in time, would exacerbate debt issues for the latter. Echoes of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota experience loom large in this case!
The minor territorial disagreements between India and Nepal have drawn much political attention in recent weeks. This issue will undoubtedly be addressed bilaterally in the days ahead. In the same period, PM Oli has quietly ceded 36 hectares of Nepalese territory to China. This has been caused by CCP’s unilateral constructions on rivers in Tibet (Autonomous Region), regardless of the impact on lower riparian nations. In Nepal’s case, changes in the routes of rivers have changed the defacto border at 11 locations in just two years. In addition, the Rui village of Nepal found itself becoming a part of China recently… leaving the 72 Nepali families there stranded in a foreign country! There has been no official pushback from Nepal on these aspects.
Mount Everest has been a major source of tourism for Nepal over the last several decades. However, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the peak has been closed for a few months now. The CCP immediately seized the opportunity to ‘capture the peak’, which lies close to the border between Nepal and Tibet (Autonomous Region). Recently, a team of scientists and surveyors sponsored by the CCP climbed the peak from the Tibetan side to identify suitable locations for the Chinese 5G network. A Chinese daily also claimed that the peak, called Qomlangma in Chinese, lies in Tibet. It has long been a strategy for the CCP to gradually change the status quo by renaming a feature, developing it, and thereafter claiming full ownership. This has been seen in multiple locations in the South China Sea and an effort is definitely being made to gradually seize ownership of the world-famous mountain, which has long been a source of pride and revenue for the people of Nepal.
Socially conditioning the citizens of Nepal for greater control by Beijing is also underway. The most overt action has been the forceful implementation of ‘Mandarin’ classes in Nepal’s schools. While this has been disguised as a ‘trade-off’ for payment of teachers’ salaries, it is undoubtedly an attempt to enhance Chinese influence over the population. Moreover, Chinese tourists in Nepal have steadily grown over the years, and have become a mainstay of the tourism sector. Weaponisation of tourism by Beijing has already been seen in South Korea, and the potential impact of this on Nepal’s economy provides significant power to the CCP.
The CCP has used this power effectively to gradually step up its influence on the Nepalese Communist Party (NCP). A series of interactions and ideological exchanges have taken place in recent times. According to some observers, the CCP aims to gradually shift the NCP’s political ideology towards the recently formulated Xi Jingping Thought. This would allow the Chinese Premier to become the ‘de facto’ leader of the NCP (like Mao had been for some Communist parties in the region) giving the CCP near absolute control over Nepal.
Implementing this strategy has required very nimble and strong local effort, which has been made possible by Hou Yangi, Beijing’s Ambassador at Kathmandu. Hou, who has previously served in Islamabad, has established unprecedented ties with the senior political and military leadership of Nepal. She is said to have complete access to the Prime Minister, Chief of Army Staff as well as the Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Tourism, etc. Hou has also established a huge social media following in Nepal and has recently also been seen as instrumental in drawing Chinese tourists and trade to Nepal in large volume.
In the last week of April 2020, when PM Oli was nearly removed from office by the ruling alliance, Hou met with leaders of all political factions in a series of closed door, intense meetings which ultimately allowed PM Oli to cling on to his chair. It is understood that the core message of these interactions was — “if we remove Oli, then India wins… which is unacceptable”.
Such overt and aggressive political influence would undoubtedly have raised objections from the political class and the media. However, local media houses have allegedly been warned off from such reporting. It is alarming how the political representation of the proud Nepalese people has been quietly and comprehensively subjugated by the CCP.
Beijing has made it no secret that it views itself as the leader in Asia and seeks to establish a hierarchical structure with itself at the apex. The implications of these ambitions for the people of smaller countries like Nepal, could be significant. Oli’s anti-India stance highlights how effective the CCP has been so far… and how the ancient cultural, traditional and civilisational relations between our two nations are being eroded. It is essential that the people of Nepal, as well as India and all other nations which have a stake in the future stability of the region, realise the extent of the CCP’s expansionist plans and act now, in concert, to safeguard the future of the Himalayan nation.
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Two Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists killed in the J&K encounter
Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), an Al-Qaeda-linked terror outfit in Kashmir, has suffered a major setback. In an encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar, security forces killed two more AGH terrorists.
The AGH terrorists were apprehended after the army and police received specific information about their presence.
During the exchange of fire, forces killed two local Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists from AGH. Both terrorists are Pulwama residents who have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks.
According to police, the terrorists were also involved in an attack on a migrant worker in Pulwama.
N. Korea enacts law on preventive nuclear strikes, France calls “threat to peace”
France criticised North Korea’s adoption of a law announcing its preparedness to launch preventive nuclear strikes on Friday, calling it a “threat to international and regional peace and security.”
The announcement from the foreign ministry came after North Korean state media earlier on Friday reported that Pyongyang had enacted a law authorising preventative strikes, including in the event of conventional attacks.
“This new escalation on the part of the North Korean authorities represents a threat to international and regional peace and security,” said a ministry spokeswoman.
France “notes with great concern the increasingly aggressive declarations from North Korea,” she added.
The decision by Pyongyang practically puts an end to the possibility of denuclearization talks after leader Kim Jong Un said that the nation’s nuclear status is now “irreversible.”
The announcement comes at a time when the North and South are experiencing greater conflict.
In addition to conducting a record number of weapons tests this year, Pyongyang has blamed the COVID-19 outbreak in its territory on Seoul.
China has successfully tested its first solar-powered drone capable of acting as a satellite
A Chinese government official informed in a tweet that China has successfully tested its first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), named Qimingxing-50, which can fly for months and can function even as a satellite if required.
What is the significance of this test flight?
The Qimingxing-50, with a wingspan of 50 m, is a high-altitude long-endurance drone that is capable of high-altitude aerial reconnaissance, assessing forest fire and can also be used for communications.
This technology will bolster Chinese defences in space and at sea. It can be used in the fields of renewable energy, new materials, and aeronautical engineering. The Chinese official also asserted that this test flight is an important step towards sustainable development.
Use of the UAV as a satellite:
The UAV, whose name translates as “Morning Star-50” in English, is claimed to be capable of functioning uninterrupted for months. This capability of having a long-endurance flight gives it a use case of operating as a satellite.
Like satellites, it is fully electric-driven, powered by solar energy and can operate at 20 km above the Earth’s surface for an extended period of time continuously. It is also referred to as a “High Altitude Platform Station” or a “pseudo-satellite.”
It can be used when there is unavailability or disruption in satellite services. The report says that compared to the cost and complexity of installing a satellite in orbit, this UAV is much more cost-effective and easy to operate.
Strict security measures have been taken at the Central Vista ahead of the inauguration by PM Modi
As Prime Minister Nrendra Modi is going to inaugurate the newly revamped Central Vista on Thursday, over 1,500 police personnel have been deployed for security over there.
A senior official of Delhi Police who is aware of the security arrangements said that the area has been divided into eight zones, which will be manned all day by eight deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) and additional deputy commissioners of police (ADCPs).
The officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “Besides 17 assistant commissioners of police (ACPs), 43 inspectors and nearly 1,200 upper and lower-rank staff of Delhi Police will be patrolling in the areas. While ten Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies will patrol the area during the day, two additional CAPF companies have been deployed for security arrangements during the evening shift.As many as five patrolling teams in 10 mobile patrolling vans (MPVs) will be keeping a constant watch on all the public movement in the area.”
Another officer said that, “The Multi Zone Door Frame Metal Detectors (DFMD) have been installed at 90 points in 25 locations in the area. Apart from one anti-drone gun, one counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has also been installed in the area, to detect, track, and ultimately disrupt and destroy any suspicious aerial intrusion. While five teams of spotters will keep a strict vigil in the area, another five traffic decongestion teams have been deployed there to immediately remove any traffic bottlenecks in the area. As many as five SWAT teams have been deployed in the area to avert any emergency crisis.”
The official added that drones will not be permitted near Central Vista on Thursday.
Pakistani rangers opened fire on BSF patrolling party in J&K
As per the reports, Pakistani rangers opened fire on a Border Security Force (BSF) patrolling party in Jammu and Kashmir’s Arnia sector on Tuesday morning, prompting the BSF to respond appropriately to the “unprovoked firing”.
“Today morning the alert BSF Jammu troops gave a befitting reply to the unprovoked firing by Pak rangers on BSF patrolling party in Arnia Sector. No loss (of lives) or injury (reported) to the BSF troops,” a statement issued by a BSF spokesperson said.
On February 24, 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly adhere to all agreements and understandings concerning cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, among other sectors.
Other incidents of firing by Pakistani troops have occurred in the last year and a half, but Tuesday’s incident was “a major one” and occurred on a day when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in India for talks, an officer anonymously said.
According to a second officer, the Indian Army and BSF respond immediately and effectively to unprovoked firings and ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC and IB.
Before the agreement in 2021, there were 5,133 ceasefire violations in 2020, 3,479 in 2019, and 2,140 in 2018. However, this number dropped to around 700 last year. Statistics for 2022 are not yet available.
The Indian government has maintained that it is Pakistan’s responsibility to create a conducive environment by taking credible, verifiable, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for cross-border terrorism against India in any way.
India sends the body of Lashkar terror operative via LoC in Poonch
Pakistan accepted the body of Tabarak Hussain, Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist operative via Chakan Da Bagh on the Line of Control in Poonch district on Monday.
“Officials of the Indian Army and civil administration took the body of slain terrorist in an ambulance to Chakan Da Bagh where it was handed over to Pakistani army officials,” said a senior official.
Tabarak Hussain, son of Mistri Malik of Sabzkote in PoK, was apprehended in an injured state by the army on August 21 in the Jhanger area of the Nowshera sector in Rajouri.
Tabarak was apprehended while allegedly infiltrating with a fidayeen terror group to attack Indian army posts along the LoC.
However, Indian army troops noticed the movement and opened fire on the intruding terror group, injuring Tabarak while other infiltrators fled to PoK.
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