|Kyirong landport, a new Gate to India?|
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Modi had offered Nepal a line of credit of one billion dollar for development projects. It was not appreciated. As a result, China has decided to increase by more than five times its official aid to the former kingdom
January 1 is a day for new resolutions. It is also a day for predictions. I will abstain from the first, but indulge in the second. The year 2015 will witness a slow takeover of Nepal by China. Here are some facts. In November 1950, a few days after China invaded Tibet, the young editor of Mother India, (published in Mumbai) asked Sri Aurobindo, the great Indian freedom-fighter and yogi about these ominous happenings in the Himalayas. The sage gave his views. In his next editorial, KD Sethna, the journalist wrote: “Let us not blink to the fact that Tibet is useful to China principally as a gate of entry to India. Nepal …appears to be the most likely objective (of Mao).” It is what is happening 64 years later.
Last week, Mr Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, visited Kathmandu, where he declared: “Nepal is an important neighbour of China and developing ties with Nepal is one of China’s priorities in developing ties with its neighbours.” While expressing ‘his gratitude toward Nepal for its firm and precious support in China’s core interests including the issue of Tibet,’ Mr Wang added: “China and Nepal should not only be friends of mutual trust and mutual support, but also should be good partners of common development and common prosperity.”
When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Nepal for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meeting last month, he offered Nepal a line of credit of one billion dollars. It was probably not appreciated on the other side of the Himalayas. As a result, China has decided to increase by more than five times its official aid to the former kingdom. Reuters reported: “The jump in assistance was announced after talks between visiting Chinese Foreign Minister and his Nepali counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, part of a deepening engagement which is expected to lead to a visit by President Xi Jinping next year.”
China has three objectives. One, Beijing needs to control the Tibetan refugees living in Nepal and make sure that their ranks do not increase in the coming years. Two, the communist leadership wants to render Kathmandu economically dependent on the trade with Tibet (read China). Three, China believes in ‘culturally’ infiltrating Nepal.
On the first issue of Tibet, China has already acted. During his visit to the former kingdom, Mr Wang laid the foundations of a ‘police academy’ to train officers of Nepal’s Armed Police Force to guard the districts bordering Tibet. The new police academy is a ‘gift’ to Nepal, on top of the annual aid of $128 million. The Chinese Foreign Minister emphatically told reporters: “As neighbours, China and Nepal have common security needs... we need to work together to crack down on illegal border crossings and transnational crimes.”
In the past, tens of thousands of Tibetans crossed over the Himalayan passes; once they reached Kathmandu, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would issue them passes for their onward journey to India. Beijing calls these refugees: ‘Illegal migrants’ and has decided to ‘help’ Kathmandu to stop the hemorrhage of Tibetans through the Himalayan passes.
On the second issue, China wants to increase manifold the trade between Tibet and Nepal. Mr Wang declared that the two nations should fully implement the ‘three supports’, namely, funds, talent and geography. About geography, new facilities at the China-Nepal (Kyirong-Rasuwa) landport have been opened on December 1. The China Daily says that it will “boost business between China and Nepal and benefit nearby residents.”
The Kyirong port is an old gateway between Tibet and Nepal; the present border post was opened in 1962, when the traditional trade between India and Tibet stopped due to the Sino-Indian conflict. Wang Long, Director of the new Kyirong Customs, recently declared that with the extension of the Qinghai-Lhasa railway line to Shigatse (opened in August), the new port will be a bridgehead towards South Asia. Does it mean that China is planning to flood India with consumer goods through the porous Indo-Nepal border in the Terai? This could be a very serious issue for India.
The new port and the arrival of the train (in a few years it will reach Kyirong) will also have security implications for India, especially if the military exchanges between Beijing and Kathmandu keep increasing. But there is worse, and it is Beijing’s third objective, to culturally infiltrate Nepal (and North India).
A few days ago, PTI reported that “security agencies have found that close to four dozen Chinese study centres and other monasteries are present along India's frontiers with Nepal and Bhutan and are allegedly indulging in propaganda programs.” The news agency quoted a report prepared by the Sashastra Seema Bal, the Central Police Force manning the Indo-Nepal border, under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The SSB believes that a number of China Study Centres have come up on Nepalese territory; 11 of them located dangerously (for India) close to the 1,751 km long Indo-Nepal border. PTI adds that these centres are working in the ‘Terai’ areas, ‘especially Jhapa and Ilam districts (of Nepal), which have strong trade, economic and ethnic ties with India.’ Though these CSCs are just supposed to teach Chinese language to local people and disseminate cultural information about China, they often indulge in ‘anti-India propaganda’, says the report.
There is certainly a possibility of these CSCs soon becoming Chinese spy centres. But there is more. The report also asserts that “22 monasteries have also come up along the border areas with Bhutan in the Indian territory between the districts of East Sikkim to Jaigaon, a small town in West Bengal near the Bhutan border.”
The ‘Buddhist’ centres, which ‘are supposed to carry out religious activities’ would have been started during the last few years. Have they been set up for religious purposes alone, is the question? According to the same source, some monasteries would have also been constructed near Kalimpong in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, where a Mountain Division of the Indian Army is located. Others have been reported in Malbazar, also a sub-division of Jalpaiguri district and in the neighbouring Alipurduar.
It is not difficult to predict, that in 2015, with the visit of President Xi Jinping to Nepal, the Sino-Nepali ‘collaboration’ will become closer. Delhi should seriously watch these critical developments.