China has significantly increased its activities in Nepal where it has “several key interests,” ranging from the Tibetan refugees to part of its strategic objective to encircle India, a US Congressional report has said.
“China has several key interests in Nepal. China has an interest in keeping Nepal from becoming a location from which Tibetan activists can promote the cause of Tibet. China has become more successful in recent years in convincing Nepal to restrict the exiled Tibetan community there,” said a rare report on Nepal by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Responding to the Chinese pressure, the government of Nepal in March 2011 prevented an estimated 20,000 Tibetans in exile in Nepal from voting for a new political head of the exiled Tibetan community, CRS, a bi-partisan research wing of the US Congress, said in its first report on Nepal in more than three years.
“China has in recent years made significant inroads in developing ties with South Asian states. Some view this as predominantly economically driven while others, particularly in strategic circles in New Delhi, increasingly view Chinese activity with geopolitical concern,” it said in the 17-page report dated April 7, a copy of which was obtained by the PTI.
“There have been reports of Chinese agents crossing the porous India-Nepal border for the purpose of infiltrating Tibetan exile groups in India and monitoring the activities of the Dalai Lama and his associates. In March 2011, China announced that it will seek to further strengthen its relations with the South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC),” it said.
China became an observer in SAARC in 2005.
According to CRS, Nepal’s status as a small, landlocked state situated between India and China makes it important to foreign policymakers.
Nepal’s reliance on these two giant neighbours leads it to seek amicable relations with both, though ties with India have historically been closer.
“Some believe India is concerned a Maoist regime in Nepal could lend support to Maoist rebels in India. China,
meanwhile, has taken several steps to pressure Nepal to repatriate, or at least constrain the activities of, refugees crossing the border from Tibet,” the report said.
Nepal is presently facing two key challenges, it said. “The first is to complete the peace process, which would require a resolution of the difficult issue of how to integrate former Maoist fighters into the army, or into society.”
“The second key challenge is completing the drafting of a Constitution. This raises the question of establishing a new federal structure that would address grievances of groups that feel they have been underrepresented in the key institutions of the state, particularly in the Terai region bordering India,” the report said.
The US seeks to promote democracy and civil society in Nepal and provide developmental assistance to its people, it said.
“The United States has viewed the Maoists’ past plans to institute a one-party republic, collectivise agriculture, re-educate ‘class enemies’ and export revolution as undermining regional stability as well as the promotion of democracy and development for Nepal. The extent to which the CPN-M remains committed to these goals is unclear,” the report said.