Nepal Suffers From Cold War Paranoia

Ties with Beijing doesn’t mean alienating Delhi

Chinese foreign minister visits nepal
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (right) upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, on Tuesday (2 Dec). Jiechi is on a three-day visit to Nepal. On the left is Foreign Minister
Upendra Yadav.

By Akhilesh Upadhyay

Kathmandu has seen a flurry of high-profile visits in recent weeks. None more so than that of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who arrived on Tuesday (2 Dec) and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukhherjee who was here last week.

There is some nervousness in various quarters in Kathmandu about these hectic diplomatic activities and conspiracy theories are doing frenzied rounds. Is the Maoist-led government coming down? Is the peace process falling apart? And worse still, is Nepal turning into a battleground for contending foreign powers, not least India and China, both emerging world powers? The Cold War mind-set continues to haunt.

It need not be.

“We should get rid of the old-school mindset,” suggests Rajan Bhattarai, a member of the CPN-UML’s Foreign Department. “The relationship with one nation doesn’t mean cozying up to harm the other.”

That’s especially so in the new interdependent world where the recession in the United States hurts retail exporters in India and China. Economic downturn in Europe results in less number of high-end tourists in Nepal.

But clearly there is more to the recent thaw in regional ties than just economic interdependence. The warming of ties between India and China gives Nepal a huge leverage to deepen and sustain stronger ties with both of them. Both the Chinese and Indian tolerance threshold for Nepal’s aspirations has increased since the cold war days of the 60s and 70s. Nepal, as a sovereign nation, has the right to deepen its relationship with its neighbours and one relationship doesn’t have to come at the cost of the other, a point Mukherjee made in his Nov. 27 press conference in Kathmandu.

That, however, doesn’t mean that the two emerging giants don’t have thresholds at all.

In his visit to Kathmandu, Mukherjee reportedly relayed a few messages to key Nepali actors. In his two meetings with the prime minister, the Indian foreign minister stressed that the peace process should be managed by Nepali actors. New Delhi seems firm about not giving UNMIN a third extension and broadening its original mandate — providing assistance to the Constituent Assembly elections and monitoring the management of arms and the armies.

“The first one has been done with,” says a Nepali Congress central committee leader. “Delhi thinks UNMIN has a role to play now in overseeing the management of arms and the armies. But it’s definitely against any kind of political role for UNMIN in army integration or talks with Tarai groups.”

According to this understanding, external actors could provide logistical support in the integration/rehabilitation of Maoist combatants. But it is the Nepalis who will decide the political parameters of the peace process and integration/rehabilitation.

New Delhi also wants to see a greater role for the Nepali Congress in the peace process. It is said to have expressed its displeasure to the prime minister over the constitution of the Army Integration Special Committee (AISC), where CPN (Maoist) holds two seats, against one each by three other major parties — NC, UML and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum.

In his two meetings with Prime Minister Dahal, Mukherjee reportedly stressed that “institutionalisation of multiparty democracy” should be at the heart of the peace process and the constitution making process, a point stressed in the 12-point agreement signed by the Maoists and the SPA in 2005.

New Delhi fears the Maoists got what they wanted from the political parties — the Constituent Assembly elections, removal of monarchy and establishment of a republic — and could now deviate from their core commitment to multiparty democracy.

While New Delhi wants Nepali Congress to join the government, it has been careful not to push for a deadline and risk upsetting the power balance and being seen as an overbearing neighbour, says an official who closely followed Mukherjee’s visit. The reading is that the CPN (Maoist), still fighting ideological battles within, would not be helped in its movement toward changing its political behaviour by perceived external interventions. With all the uproar between the hard-line and pragmatist factions these past few weeks, Delhi, however, still believes that PM Dahal is firmly in charge of the party. “Yes, the situation in Nepal is very fragile,” says UML’s Bhattarai. “Yes, external and internal dynamics are volatile. But we can turn that to our advantage too. For now, we must get rid of the old-school mindset of reading the international community’s concerns as sinister threats.”

Akhilesh Upadhyay is the Editor of the Kathmandu Post where this article appeared today.

One World, (and Yes) One China

Leading a 10-member delegation, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday (2 Dec) evening on a three-day goodwill visit. Minister for Foreign Affairs Upendra Yadav welcomed Minister Jiechi at the Tribhuvan International Airport. In a dinner hosted in honour of his Chinese counterpart, Minister Yadav said, “Nepal upholds the principle of one-China policy.” He also expressed happiness over China’s support and cooperation during the transition period. Yadav thanked China for its continued support in building Nepal’s infrastructure over the decades.

In his speech, Chinese Foreign Minister Jiechi noted the progress Nepal has made in the peace process and lauded Nepalis for holding Constituent Assembly elections successfully. He also acknowledged Nepal’s one-China policy. Minister Jiechi recalled Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to China during the Olympic-closing ceremony in August and the number of high-level bilateral visits between the two countries in recent times.

‘Visit significant’
The visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi, the first by China’s top diplomat since Nepal’s political changes, holds “special significance,” analysts say. It’s been a while since China sent such a senior official to Nepal. The last Chinese foreign minister to visit Nepal was Li Zhaoxing, who was here in April, 2005, following the royal takeover.

“China is greatly interested in the political changes in Nepal,” said Rajan Bhattarai, a member of the CPN-UML’s Foreign Department. “After the abolition of monarchy, China has lost its traditional and stable friend. It is now looking to strengthen ties with the political parties.”

The ruling CPN (Maoist) said it hopes that the visit of top Chinese diplomat will be fruitful in leading the peace process to conclusion and development. “After joining the peace process, our party has built a direct and formal relationship with the Chinese Communist Party,” said Maoist leader Agni Sapkota. “In recent past, China has adopted a policy of extending even more cooperation.”

But China has a history of supporting whoever is in power, say some. Nepali Congress leader Narayan Khadka claimed that China had the policy of supporting “the government of the day” and said Maoists will not get special treatment from the Chinese government. “One or two agreements or announcement of economic assistance during such high-level visits is diplomatic tradition,” he said. “China will not have special relationships with the Maoists.” According to Bhattarai, Beijing is also concerned with the increasing activities of India and U.S. in Nepal and is serious about not letting any anti-China activities take place in Nepal. Khadka too is of the opinion that anti-China protests by Tibetans will be of special concern to China. Both Sapkota and Khadka said that China is here to endorse the political changes, but the ongoing peace process will be discussed with the Nepali side, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.

Former Nepalese ambassador to China Rajeshwor Acharya also said the visiting Chinese diplomat will be interested in discussing relationship of two countries in a changed context. “He has come to promote the national interest of his country,” said Acharya. “The visit has a high political value as such high-ranking officials rarely come here.” On the face of it, however, the three-day goodwill visit seems largely to focus on issues of bilateral cooperation. Shyamananda Suman, the adviser to Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, said, “We have more economic and technical agendas than political issues for this visit.”

Indeed the talks between the two foreign ministers will focus on Chinese assistance to Nepal, according to MoFA officials. During his stay, he is also scheduled to meet President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

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9 thoughts on “Nepal Suffers From Cold War Paranoia”

  1. fuel price reduction: another joke………….. do we look look like some dumb maoist, maoist supporters……..
    petrol should be 70

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  2. i think after Israel, Nepal could be the second biggest reason for 3rd world war. ……………………….. if some group try to break nepal and if india is involved there will be tension between india and nepal and pakisthan, bangladesh, china will be involved then there will come US, russia, uk, eu then bang..
    ……………….. hope they do not turn this political stupidity into war………

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  3. as for me advice is welcome – for some it is interference- but pressure is not acceptable.

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  4. It looks like both our neighboring countries are having increased interest in our small country. We have to be very diplomatic with both these countries. As Prithvi Narayan Shah’s also said, “Nepal dui dhunga beech ko tarul ho“.

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  5. It looks like both our neighboring countries are having increased interest in our small country. We have to be very diplomatic with both these countries. As Prithvi Narayan Shah’s also said, “Nepal dui dhunga beech ko tarul ho“.

    A balanced relation has to be maintained between both the countries.

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  6. On Nationalism:

    Zbegnew Brzezinski, who used to be the National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter, talks about a ‘politicical awakening of the masses’ around the world. Nepal is no exception. Joseph Nye, a scholar in International Relations, talks about the same condition when he cites’ nationalism’ as one of the most pressing issues in the world today.

    Nationalism and the political awakening of the masses within Nepal has given rise to a variety of presumptions and one of them is this notion of the importance of Nepal in international geo-politics.The education system designed in the ‘Panchayat’ era had a lot to contribute to elite/ middle class hill Nepalis’ preoccupation with their own importance in international politics.

    On China:
    If one is to study Chinese foreign policy, one would find that Economic interests are on the top of the agenda. Nepalese political instability is of a minor concern. The sticking point of Tibet is the one issue where China has and will exert more power on Nepal.

    On India:
    The consensus among international relations scholars is that Nepal is an Indian sphere of influence (See Nye, “Bound to Lead”). Many Nepali nationalists would not like this but the truth it is. But again, Indian foreign policy has other priorities to look at : Islamic Terrorism, Economic interests, The Pakistan Problem.

    On Diplomatic Visits and strategy:

    Diplomatic Visits do not mean changes in foreign policy strategies. China’s policy in Nepal has been of the exertion of soft-power: Foreign aid, cultural and educational exchanges. This will remain true whoever comes in power in Nepal. Indian foreign policy has been more interventionist. This will also remain true for the forseeable future. The implications for Nepalese foreign policy is to realize this imbalance and use rational diplomatic overtures to work with both neighbours. National Interest and not nationalism should be their guiding principle.

    A careful reading of Keohane and Nye’s “Power and Interdependence” as well as most of Hans Morgenthau’s works on international politics would be useful for the nepali foreign policy establishment, if they are willing to put in the effort.

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  7. Nepali leaders have already done mistakes by depending too much on India in even our own internal matter. Same thing as a close neighbour China wants to test Nepal as a playground. However, China is safe supporter than trobuled India.

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  8. Before I read this article and comments and I make some comment, I wonder why our foreign minister looks so grim? Does this have any significance about his dealings with his Chinese counterpart? Is he not able to deal with sophisticated chinese counterpart? Can some one enlighten me?

    Like

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