Nepal: The Himalayan Problem

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Nepal-flag-exlargeNepal, the Civilizational neighbour of India, has been going through Winds of Turbulence since the Royal massacre of 2001. The Royal Massacre followed by the Maoist movement further strained once Nepal’s tranquil peace. Nepal journey from Monarchy to a Democracy lead by the Communist Party of Nepal has been a rather tormenting one. The devastating earthquake of April 2015 followed by strife between the ethnic Nepalese in the Hills and the Madhesis in the Terai region of Nepal has further fuelled the faultlines making the prospect of reconciliation even more difficult.. The Chinese backing of Communist Party in the largely Hindu-dominated Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal presents a big challenge to the foreign policy of India. Nepal, once the only Hindu Kingdom with 81.3 percent Hindu population, adopted the Interim Constitution in 2007 wherein it became a secular state. To arrive a negotiated settlement of rival factions, ethnicities among one Hindu Rashtra of Nepal, the constituent assembly of Nepal in the fall of 2015 promulgated a new constitution.

The New Constitution of Nepal in its first version sought to curtail the rights of Madhesis in Terai region of Nepal who have close affinity to the people across the border in India. The curtailment of rights to Madhesis of Indian origins and governing structure in the creation of districts in Terai meant that a large majority of Nepalese of Indian origin were marginalised in the Nepalese polity. The resentment to the new constitution culminated into huge protests and large-scale violence in Terai regions of Nepal. The large scale violence lead to self- imposed blockade by Madhesis on the Indian border posts disrupting the essential supplies of Oil/Medicines etc. into land locked Himalayan kingdom. The Nepalese Communists blamed India for orchestrating the months-long blockade that plunged Nepal into chaos while India categorically denied the charges stating that it was the result of the disaffection of Madhesis in Terai calling upon the both sides to come out with an amicable settlement of the issue. Subsequently, the Nepalese Parliament dominated by the Communists in a bid to assuage the unrest in Terai region passed certain amendments to the new constitution, which has sought to keep the lid on the unrest and strife in the region.

The devastation caused by the Earthquake in April 2015 and never ending civil unrest in Nepal, consequent blockade at the Indian border has made Nepal look towards alternative routes for financing its reconstruction and essential supplies. The protracted unrest has opened up the spectre of Indo-China rivalry in the Himalayan state of Nepal. Prospective cheap reconstruction aid by Chinese-based AIIB and the recent oil deal between Nepal and China has made Nepal slowly pivot towards China. The Chinese have also recently offered to connect Nepal with high-speed rail link from Tibet opening up a new theatre on Indian Border. The prospect of Sino-Pak collaboration in Nepal provides a grave security challenge for India given Nepal’s porous borders with India and likely infiltration of ISI-sponsored militants, arms and fake currencies. The strife in Madhesis and following blockade has virtually evaporated the goodwill that India generated by its spontaneous help to Nepal during the Earthquake in April 2015.

To get a wholesome perspective of the Himalayan problem that India faces in Nepal, it is imperative to understand the Geo-Politics played out in Nepal over last few decades. Nepal has been an active playground for the Chinese, who have backed the communist groups in Nepal and Pakistan’s ISI who has long used Nepal porous borders as a weapon against India. Despite a dominant role of the Sino-Pak axis the seeds of unrest in Nepal equally, owe its origin to western powers who have for long manipulated the Himalayan kingdom for their Interest. The unrest in Nepal essentially began in the mid-90s after the decades of neglect of the local population by the Nepalese monarchy. Nepal’s economy was crippled due to decades of neglect of its population in the 1970s & 80s that gave rise to Maoist insurgency to take birth in the mid-90s.

The prime reasons for Monarchical apathy of the Nepalese economy, and its population were two-fold, one being the campaigns run by foreign funded NGO, Think Tanks from Western countries to preserve Nepal’s pristine environment even if that meant forsaking economic development. Various US based organisations like National Endowment for Democracy (NED), National Democratic Institute (NDI), US Agency for International Development (USAID) also invested substantive capital and resources in Nepal. Secondly, the Nepalese monarchy had big links to members of the British Monarchy and other organisations like British Nepal Society, King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. Though historically Nepalese monarchy was close to British monarchy but King Gyanendra, who took over as monarch after the Royal massacre in 2001, was more even more closely associated with WWF environmental conservationists based in the UK and British royal family. Nepalese monarchy pleasing the Western interests turned Nepal into a Pleasure City and promoted Casinos, Gambling rings, Tourism to an extent that benefited the few and did nothing to raise Nepalese economy. However, the western powers true to their nature on one side promoted the Nepalese monarchy and turning Nepal into ‘sin city’ type Himalayan resort; on the other side various organizations based out of UK & US provided ideological support for the communist factions that lead Maoist movements against the monarchy across Nepal from the mid 90s.

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The Nepalese communist party (Maoist) has explicitly stated that it draws inspiration from London based Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) committee and Peru’s Sendoro Luminoso (Shining Path) nacro terrorist group. It has also established links with RIM chapter in Chicago, US. Nepalese communist leader Prachanda had openly stated few years back in an interview that they got ideological and political support from the RIM Committee and understood the people’s war from modus operandi of various groups across the world from Peru’ s shining light to other struggles in countries like Turkey, Iran, Sri Lanka and even Philippines. He also proclaimed to be in direct contact with many Indian communist groups like People’s wars and Maoist’s Communist centre. The 1989 Blocked imposed by then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi fuelled anti-India feelings in Nepal and neglect of Nepalese population by the monarchy of its economy pushed Nepal towards China which was instrumental in furthering the Maoists struggle that had an ideological backing of the leftists elements in the Western Countries.

The Nepalese communist lead by Comrade Prachanda and Dr Baburam Bhattarai fired the first salvo of people’s war on 12th February 1996 by vowing to setup a Maoist style dictatorship of the proletariat after a meeting with the Indian Maoist group CPI (ML), People’s War group and NCP (Maoists). The Maoists insurgency since then in Nepal effectively tapped the anger of crippling Nepalese economy and monarchical apathy into a movement that has resulted in the death of thousands with continuous unrest, violence and strikes over last decade. The Maoists insurgency which began in 5 districts in Hills, Rolpa, Rukam and Jajrkot in the Midwest, Gorkha in the West and Sindhuli in the east further spread out across the country. Despite the ideological backing that Nepali Communists got from western countries, the Nepali revolutionary leader Baburam Bhattarai railed against American imperialism with the slogan of ‘Yankee Go Home’ and threatened the US with another Vietnam if it interfered in the sabotaging the people’s war in Nepal. These statements clearly reflect that Nepalese communist had developed big links with China and its other ally in the region Pakistan who provided them support by way of funds and arms to run the movement of People’s war.

With the rise of the Maoists movement in Nepal, the rise of Chinese influence in Nepal has been on the upswing, China construction of road links from Tibet has made the trade between Nepal and China grow leaps and bounds. In 2013, China was the 4th largest market for the Nepalese goods and 2nd largest source of its imports touching nearly 15%. Sino-Nepalese trade touched 23 Billion $ in 2014. China has been expanding its sphere of influence in Nepal by investing in infrastructure projects like construction of Kathmandu-Bhaktapur highway and Kathmandu-Pokhra highway, cement, real estate, tourism, etc. Chinese FDI in Nepal in 2012-13 touched 19.39 billion $ which is nearly 31% of Nepal’s total FDI upstaging India as Nepal’s prime source of trade of commodities etc. The Chinese military relations with Nepal have increased multifold in last decade which was visible when in 2005 after King Gyanendra imposed emergency India halted military supplies to RNA (Royal Nepalese Army), China quickly grabbed the opportunity to supply arms to RNA. Further in 2008, China gave military aid package of 1.3 million$ to Nepal pledging a further amount of 2.6 million$ towards non-military aid. Chinese has recently also agreed to build a new international airport in Kathmandu.

Following the Nepal-China Friendship Agreement signed in 2005 the Nepalese intelligence has been actively co-operating with Chinese intelligence and as a result, the Chinese have been instrumental in using this agreement for opening up Confucius Institutes across Nepal for Chinese learning and promoting the Chinese culture in Nepal. Some of these learning institutes have opened up in dozens in areas like Belhia, Bherwa areas close to Sunauli border with India besides Vrathamu, Butval, Nepalganj, Pokhram Bhorand and Sunsari. These Chinese learning centres essentially serve as intelligence outposts for China and are used to spread pro-China and anti-India propaganda. As per latest Indian intelligence reports such centres have even opened up next to Indo-Nepal border in areas like Parasi, Chitvan near Theetubari post in India. The SSB intelligence report claims that off 22 prominent Chinese cultural centers, 11 of them are operating bang on the Indian border with Nepal. The recent oil deal with China and the proposed rail link from Lhasa to Kathmandu could further weaken New Delhi’s grip on a country that is critical for India’s internal security.

The growing Chinese footprint in Nepal has been equally augmented by the subversive activities carried on by Pakistan’s ISI against its archrival India. ISI for long has been using Nepal as a transit point for smuggling RDX, Arms Ammunitions and counterfeit currency into India. The hijacking of IA Flight IC-814 from Kathmandu by Pakistan based terror groups only further underscores the deep nexus. ISI has been using Nepal and its porous border with Indian states like UP, Bihar and Bengal to setup madrasas in the border areas providing for rapid growth of Muslim population altering the demographics and radicalising them with Anti India literature. As per SSB Intelligence Reports, nearly 1900 Madrasas have cropped up on the Indo-Nepal border in last decade and a half with 1100 being on the Indian side and nearly 800 on the Nepal side. Funds are flowing into these Madrasas teaching Radical ideology from Islamic Development Bank (Jeddah) & Pakistan’s Habib Bank. In the past few years, the capture of Yaseen Bhatkal of Indian Mujahideen and Abdul Kareem Tunda on the Indo-Nepal border has further highlighted the ISI’s deep penetration in the perpetrating terror into India. The literature recovered from Tunda’s dairies also substantiates how ISI is looking to converge the Leftists and the Jihadists groups in India to bleed it by thousand cuts from inside. The ISI operations in Nepal have been well known and documented with officials being caught of abetting anti-India activities in connivance with D Company and other terror groups like LeT, SIMI some of whom were sent back from on this ground.

Over last few decades especially from the late 80s Nepal once part of the Glorious Hindu Civilization has seen steady decline in its economical prosperity and its cultural values. Though Nepal remains predominantly Hindu yet the inflow of Wahabi Money and its radical ideology, the Western NGO and think tanks and Maoist insurgency backed by China/Pak Nexus has deeply eroded the ethnic Nepalese viewpoint. There has been rapid spread of Christianity promoted by Evangelists from Western Countries with a rapid increase in proselyting activities. In 1951 Nepal had no Christians, which rose to 451 in 1961 and further to 1,02,000 in 2001 that has tripled to 3,75,000 in 2011. The evangelist activities of conversions have increased after Nepal pivoted away from a Hindu Rashtra to a Secular Constitution under a Predominantly Communist rule. The deadly nexus of Communists and Evangelists has exploited the Poverty and Economic ruin of Nepal to feed on lucrative base for conversions. The Nepal earthquake only added to the decline. While on one hand under Communist rule Evangelists have gained ground in Nepal on the other hand it lead to the rise of Wahabi sponsored madrasas on Indo-Nepal Border.

The recent Madhesis struggle and ensuing blockade has further pushed Nepal away into this Chinese lap and maybe for good this time. The Indian Government under Prime Minister Modi missed a trick by not enabling a quick to the solution to strife in quake-stricken Nepal. The recent cancellation of the visit of the Nepalese president to India further underscores the same point. Nepal, which was once a Hindu Rashtra, has limped along to become a secular state in the new Constitution and with communist gaining control of the Nepalese polity, it remains to be seen how long before Nepalese democracy gives away to a Communist-style dictatorship of Proletariat. Whether Nepal comes out of the period of strife to regain its ancient glory or will it fall away to international machinations of a Civilizational War on Hindu Rashtra, will all depend on how India’s plays its hand in a high-stake battle that has potential consequences on its internal security as well.

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