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Why Dragon’s Nepal designs will fall flat

China may have subjugated a political party temporarily but not the people of Nepal who have deep-rooted Indian connection and have been most trusted friends of people of India.

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (Retd.)

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File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepali counterpart, K.P. Sharma Oli.

Dragon has finally pushed Nepal to join the cartographic war against India, its longstanding friend. The release of new map by Nepal’s communist PM showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadura as Nepalese territory, that too in a great hurry, makes this action premeditated and clearly in cohorts with the Chinese. This not only alters the claims of Nepal on Indian territory but also changes the tri-junction between the borders with China, making China a direct stakeholder. China insidiously also lays claims on a few villages of Nepal, seeking strategic advantages, citing historical accounts. The Chinese have not stopped at annexation of Tibet and continue this cartographic trickery to usurp neighbor’s territories incrementally.

In India, there is a tradition that the new PM and Chief of Army Staffs make their first visit to Nepal and Bhutan before undertaking Journeys elsewhere in the world. The CsOAS of both Nepal and India are also reciprocal Honorary Chiefs of the other’s Armies. I remember in Feb 2015, when I called on the General Gaurav Shamsher J.B. Rana, COAS of Nepalese Army in Kathmandu, I greeted him as ‘my Chief’ and he accepted it so warmly. Later in April same year, when providing earthquake relief to Nepal, India was the first responder and the major relief provider. I saw a sudden turn in events, unexplained, when Nepal was arm twisted to accept relief from China, with PLA medical units flying in, doing less of relief and more of photography and reconnaissance. The PLA units would operate by air keeping their aircraft generally in Tibet.

China has worked towards a long-term strategy. The slogan of Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai (India-China are brothers) was a pill coined to lull India into complacency; swallowed by the politico-diplomatic corps, got India to nearly disband its Military. They not only attacked India in 1962, but blocked most resolutions in the UN that could favour India. Pakistan was nudged to attack India soon after 1962 war, indented towards a long-term strategy of collusion. Pakistan rewarded China by gifting them 5180 Sq Km of Sakshgam Valley in 1963. Since then China has used Trade and Terror as policies of expansion using Pakistan and North Korea on its two flanks and making these terror hubs immune through building their nuclear arsenals. It should have donned upon our policymakers, as to how a country separated by miles of rugged terrain — terra incognita and have nothing in common, could be our brothers?

 With Middle Kingdom Syndrome, China has convinced itself to be the Centre of the world, as also its natural claimant; quite similar to Nazi-Germany. She is open about such intentions, amply demonstrated in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China has got an easy access into nations which are economically weak and those who want relief from world debt. There are many countries around India that have slipped into the hands of Chinese making a ‘string of pearls’ around India. Similarly, China has been pushing their weight on Nepal and Bhutan, albeit, without much success as these countries have a long-standing history of being fiercely Independent as also respected by India.

Nepal is the only acknowledged Hindu Kingdom in the world; along with Bhutan these nations pursue an open border policy with India. Both Himalayan kingdoms have deep-rooted connection with India and the Indian Army. People of Nepal reside in India enjoying same status, with large number of Gurkhas from Nepal serving the Indian Army and Armed Police Forces, as also three times the serving strength are the ex-servicemen who enjoy the status, privileges and draw pensions from India. There is a deep business and marital connect between peoples of two countries. The inhabitants of Terai region of Nepal have strong ethnic linkage with the people of Indo — gangetic plains. The people of India and Nepal are inseparable.

Both Nepal and India have been victims of the Maoist violence. The Maoists literally held complete Nepal to ransom for almost five years in early 2000, ending with UN involvement. Around that time, almost One -third of Indian districts came under the direct/indirect influence of Maoists. The Red corridor, also called the CRZ (Compact Revolutionary Zone) in India ran from the borders of Nepal, along the eastern states of India till south, touching Sri Lanka. India and Nepal were forced to deploy SSB on the Open borders for border policing. Similar deployment had to be undertaken on the borders with Bhutan due to terror camps of ULFA, NDFB and KLO established in Bhutan, also supported by the Chinese.

The Nepal’s political heavyweights have historically leveraged China to balance India and vice versa. With Maoists creating a new hope for the poor, China exploited the communist party to move into more influential political arena, filling the vacuum created by the exit of Nepalese Royalty. Prachanda, once a head of terrorist outfit, was catapulted into becoming the PM of Nepal. The Communist Party (Maoist) since then has been in dominant role, bringing the Chinese to build infrastructure across Tibet as part of Chinese Belt and Road initiative. On the lines of CPEC, the BRI is packaged with promises for investment and jobs; such perks come with conditions. One of the conditions is visible and that is to leverage Nepal against India, while simultaneously attacking India militarily on the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. Nepal has drawn a new map showing Indian territory as Nepal, thereby blocking the road built by Indian along the Mahakali river. This was the only access to Hindu holy land of Kailash-Mansarovar made by India with tacit understanding of China and Nepal. With this denial, all routes to Kailash stand blocked, others being from Chumbi valley near Sikkim and Demchok, via eastern Ladakh.

It seems China has not been able to fathom the difference between Nepal and other nations that have easily slipped into the string of pearls. Nepal is a Hindu nation which has never been subjugated. China may have subjugated a political party temporarily but not the people of Nepal who have deep rooted Indian connection and have been most trusted friends of people of India, no wonder there are discordant voices in Nepal. The intervention of the Chinese is also aimed at disturbing the existing treaties, more prominently the Indo-Nepalese treaty of 1950 which makes Nepalese and Indians virtually same people, where the borders are open not only for trade but also for jobs and marriages. While Prachanda has always realised the importance of people-to-people relationship between two countries, his political compulsions have not allowed him to take firm position. The Nepalese people have clearly seen through the worthlessness of this action by their PM, K.P. Oli.

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu was commissioned into 22nd Battalion, the Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) on 13 December 1980, and commanded the battalion from May 1999 to February 2001 in Uri Sector (Jammu and Kashmir) during Operation Vijay. He commanded an Infantry Brigade in Kashmir Valley and an infantry division in the Northeast. He was GOC 14 Corps and later retired as Deputy Chief of Army Staff.

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