Friday, April 5, 2013

Maoist Government in Nepal: Ramifications for India
Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh; 13/01/2009 CLAWS Article, 1234
Former Signal Officer-in-Chief, Indian Army

The coming to power of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – CPN (M) – under the new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is called Prachanda, or "the fierce one", has significant repercussions for India. The legitimate concern in India is whether Maoist Nepal would come under Chinese influence or whether it would be able to chart a policy of equidistance between India and China. Though the new government in Nepal has stated that it would like to do the latter, this cannot be taken at face value. The Maoists have close links with China and have received material and moral support from it during their 10 years of armed struggle. They are a communist organization, and as with the Communists in India, they seem to look up to China as the fountainhead of all wisdom, and financial, technical and military assistance. However, it is hoped that they are also aware of the dangers of excessive Chinese presence, proximity and influence.
Some of the utterances and actions of the Maoist leadership have not been India friendly. For instance, after doing well in elections, they announced that they would not allow people of Nepal to join the Indian Armed Forces. The decision was, however, retracted owing to the opposition it evoked from the common people since the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Nepali families depends on the pay and pension of Nepali soldiers in the Indian Armed Forces.
Until now, owing to the close and special relations between the two countries, India had been the first country to be visited by a new Prime Minister of Nepal. However, Dahal, the new Prime Minister of Nepal, chose to visit China instead, though he explained it as his desire to attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese laid out the red carpet for him and he met the top leaders of China.
Chinese have built roads in Nepal, some of which connect it with the elaborate road network in Tibet and a few head along and towards the Gangetic Plain in India. China has proposed to build 10 roads linking Tibet with Nepal. In addition, a proposal has been announced to extend the Railway line from Lhasa to the border with Nepal.
China considers Nepal a buffer between India and Tibet. According to the Chinese doctrine, a buffer country has to be under their sphere of influence for it to be a viable buffer. China is, therefore, bound to manipulate a significant role in determining the future shape of Nepalese politics, get more involved in its development, infrastructure improvement, and state of the military. Economic, cultural and diplomatic relations, as also military-to-military cooperation are likely to increase significantly. Two military delegations have already visited Nepal; the first headed by a Maj Gen and the second by the deputy chief of China’s People’s Liberation Army. They have offered $ 2.6 mn military aid, which will bring in Chinese weapons, equipment and military advisors.
Gradually, the people of Nepal will experience increasing Chinese propaganda against perceived hegemony of India, and also see more and more Chinese goods, books, periodicals, films etc. Cultural centers, whose main function is to make inroads into local society, will be established in Nepal. This would also enable entry of more Chinese intelligence agents into Nepal and India.
India is suffering from Maoist insurgency of its own in a number of states. Maoists in power in Nepal will be a big boost to the movement in India. China will be able to provide assistance to Maoists in India via Nepal more effectively. Generally speaking, the Communists in India will also get a boost.
Militarily, close friendship between Nepal and China can have grave strategic consequences. Nepal could become a hotbed of anti-India propaganda and intelligence, as also subversive activities. Chinese forces through Nepal can outflank our defences in Sikkim, the narrow Siliguri corridor linking rest of India with Assam and other eastern states, threaten major cities and communications centers located in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and North Bengal. Major Airports in Nepal, including at Kathmandu, could be used by the Chinese to extend the range of their aircraft inside India and keep Indian Air Force at bay.
It will not be difficult for China to enter Nepal with its military, as and when they make up their mind to do so. Excellent roads in Tibet linked to Nepal, as also the railway line to Lahsa, later extended to Nepal border will enable China to induct larger force levels. To counter this threat, Indian leadership needs to take certain major decisions and actions.
India has to find an effective diplomatic answer to this new development. We have been too soft in dealing with China. There is a need to lay down a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ with Nepal and China, as regards Nepal-China bonhomie. In case things go beyond that, India will need to act. At the same time, India has to reach out to Nepal and ensure that all legitimate transit and other facilities are provided. Military to military ties should be strengthened. The existing treaty needs to be renegotiated. At the political level, effective bonds and bridges should be built with the new regime, now that the Hindu King is gone. 

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