Nepal has published a new political map that includes a small stretch of disputed land, toughening its stance on a decades-long row over the territory with India, which has rejected the move. China is instigating Nepal to take a hard-course with India

The new map that shows a sliver of land - including Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani - jutting out from the northwestern tip of Nepal was made public on Wednesday by Land Management Minister Padma Aryal, who said the occasion was "historically pleasant" for Nepal and its people. This is an ongoing dispute and India must in no uncertain terms exercise its authority in this matter.

Chinese Direct Interference In Nepali Domestic Politics

China in early May was making hectic and direct efforts to protect Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government in Kathmandu amid rifts within top leadership of the ruling dispensation. Amid heightened intra-party row within the NCP, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi has intensified her political meetings with ruling class.

Ambassador Yanqi held an-hour-long talks with NCP Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal or Prachanda. During the meeting held at Dahal’s residence in Kathmandu, the duo are learned to have discussed Nepal’s current political developments, particularly the rift within NCP.

The meeting with Dahal has been crucial at a time when Dahal and NCP senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal are determined on ousting Prime Minister KP Oli amid intra-party row, especially after PM Oli brought two ordinances last week in an effort to secure his position as the PM.

Both Dahal and Nepal are adamant that Oli should step down despite the fact that Oli proposed party Vice President Bam Dev Gautam as the new PM during the party’s Secretariat meeting held last Wednesday, sources informed.

Yanqi also met Nepal and discussed political developments, including the rift between two factions within the NCP. Yanqi also held around two-hour-long talks with Oli at the latter’s official residence in Baluwatar and discussed in length the latest developments seen in the ruling party.

This is the second meeting between Oli and Yanqi in one week.

The Nexus

Considering that Nepal acts as a buffer zone between two Asian powerhouses and long-term rivals, namely India and China, any brewing instability will inevitably bring about various implications for both New Delhi and Beijing. India is itself affected on its territory by growing Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, which intends to overthrow the Indian government through ‘People's War’. Thus, any support to Indian Maoist groups provided by Nepalese Maoists, alongside with anti-India activities in Nepal, particularly those backed up by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, appear as issues of grave concern for India.

As profoundly analysed by a Study Paper “Misuse of Nepal’s territory by Pakistan’s Intelligence Agencies to foment Terrorism”, the ISI’s persistent and discreditable use of Nepalese territory to promote terrorism and other related activities against India has quite strained India-Nepal relations in the past few years. The paper argues that “ISI’s use of Nepal as a veritable second front to target India through use of terrorist proxies began in the mid-to-late 1980s and has continued with varying intensity till today”. Although the situation experienced a turning point after the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 from Kathmandu to New Delhi – as a result of which the leader of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, Masood Azhar, was released – the ISI has remained active in the country. 

This is further substantiated by Wikileaks releases of information generated by the American geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor, which in 2010 stated that “The ISI has joined hands with Nepalese Maoists to smuggle CFIC [Counterfeit Indian Currency], drugs, arms and ammunition into India, hoping that the Indian government will not take action against the latter… The ISI bosses in Pakistan know that the Maoists enjoy good relations on Indo-Nepal border and they want to take advantage of the situation”.

The same year, a report issued by Jamestown Foundation, Washington-based institute for research and analysis, explained how until his arrest by India in 2009, a former Nepal-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief, Mohammed Omar Madani, has been called upon to forge ties with the Naxalites for the purposes of recruiting new young members so that the LeT sustains its operations in Nepal and India. An article published by the Centre for Security Studies at the ETH Zurich University confirms the aforementioned claims, adding that “Madani’s diaries also provided a detailed picture of the plans being made by the ISI to dismember India through the Maoist insurgency”. The article further argues that “the Intelligence Bureau had pointed out that nearly 500 Naxalites had undergone training with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in the Vagamon hills on the Idduki-Kottayam border in 2008. In fact, Madani himself had carried out extensive research into the Maoists’ organisational structure and functioning and had also been receiving fake currency to fund terror activities in India”.

In addition, India fears that not only Pakistan’s ISI has been using Nepal as a strategic terrain for conducting its anti-India operations, but as Brahma Chellaney, an Indian author, public intellectual and analyst of international Geo-Strategic trends has further forewarned, “the Maoists' dreamland, China, is pulling Nepal into its orbit”.

Despite the ideological affinity between the Nepalese Maoists and China, during the Nepalese Civil War, also known as the Maoist Revolution, which was fought by the then called Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and the government of Nepal and which took place between 1996 and 2006, resulting in the deaths of over 17,000 people and internally displacing hundreds of thousands, - Beijing was looking upon the Maoists with disdain and contempt, considering them unworthy for carrying Mao’s name. China was treating the Nepalese Maoists as anti-government rebels and only “rediscovered their ideological linkages” and started supporting them once they became accommodated in the government and appeared as the single largest ruling party in 2008. 

Through critically analysing this paradigm shift, what becomes visible is that Chinese involvement with the Nepalese Maoists appears to be based on pragmatism and opportunism, and less on any political or ideological basis. This is also clear from the Chinese strategic objectives in Nepal, which fall in line with Beijing’s desire to establish its New Silk Road, alongside with securing its presence in Tibet. China’s exploitation of the Buddhist religion and its attempts in crafting a new Nepali national identity, portray how the country is using religion as a diplomatic tool for economic enrichment, and is further establishing and fortifying its influence in the Himalayan country.

As Lauren Jackson, a journalist for The Diplomat has described, in 2011, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the atheist superpower invested $ 3 billion in the town of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, in the building of various types of infrastructure. Through these investments, China not simply obtained access to Nepal’s lucrative tourism economy, but also secured an important pawn in its game of controlling and suppressing Buddhism in the region, which is essential for Beijing’s desire to silence any international voices preaching the liberation of Tibet and impose a claim on the succession of the next Dalai Lama.

Punitive measures that India must immediately enforce as a matter of National interest and security vis-à-vis Nepal:

  • Enforce a complete economic blockage
  • Ban all exports to Nepal
  • Suspend all aid to Nepal
  • We have no doubts, and we are not afraid to use our clout, therefore, RAW must ensure that this Oli is ousted by any means possible that may deem fit to benefit our national interest. The same way Rajapaksha was ousted when he coddling up with China
  • Bring in another political leader (maybe Prachanda) which will ensure our interests
  • Destroy the police Chowki erected by the Nepali Army
  • Cripple their tourism industry by curbing Indians travelling there
  • Limit or completely restrict humanitarian aid in case of any natural disasters in the future, this should be sternly conveyed