As per reports, the motorcade of Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari was attacked in Janakpur by Madhesis who also threw a petrol bomb at a temple she visited. The activists of Madhesi Morcha protesting against Nepal’s new Constitution were reportedly behind this and the police had to resort to tear gas to disperse the crowds. Bhandari is from the ruling CPN-UML party (same as Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli), of which she was Vice Chairman till she was appointed President of Nepal in October.
Under the new Constitution, of the 165 seats in Parliament, the hill and mountain people would have monopoly over 100, while the Terai would be represented by only 65 seats despite having 50 percent of Nepalese population.
Nepal having been in the throes of Maoists violence is witnessing fresh turmoil from Madhesis who inhabit the Terrai region in large numbers, where half the population of Nepal lives. Oli was elected as the Chairman of CPN-UML party in July 2014 and became Prime Minister of Nepal on 11 October 2015 by defeating incumbent Prime Minister Sushil Koirala of Nepalese Congress, signaling a new phase of political polarization in the Nepalese political scene.
At the root of the Madhesi turmoil lays the new Constitution of Nepal, delivered in September 2015 replacing the 2007 interim constitution that was adopted after Nepal moved away from decades of monarchy. Under the new Constitution, of the 165 seats in Parliament, the hill and mountain people would have monopoly over 100, while the Terai would be represented by only 65 seats despite having 50 percent of Nepalese population. Only one province, comprising eight districts, has been constituted into a province.
The rest 14 districts have been joined with the hill districts, which, in effect, reduce them to a minority. None of the major Madhesi-based parties have signed the new Constitution because of such serious flaws. As per an article by Anant Ranjan in ‘Madhesi Youth’, Madhesi and Tharus represent about 40-50 percent population of Nepal. The new Constitution divides the Madhesi and Tharu clusters which would limit Madhesi political representation. As a marginalized group, Tharus in the west have been combined together with hilly areas separated by geographical boundaries, seriously undermining their future representation.
The Maoist insurgency in Nepal was the long-term strategic move of China. Much before Prachanda became Prime Minister of Nepal, he had given statement to Nepalese media, saying “The ultimate war will be with the Indian Army”…
Similarly, Madhesis in eastern district of Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa have been excluded from the central Madhesi province. Madhesis seek one or two states encompassing their big cluster based on their settlement. The bottom-line is that the new Constitution has failed to satisfy the Madheshis and Tharus who constitute 70 per cent of the Terai population; formation of seven federal provinces as per the Constitution is grossly unfair to them. Killings of Madhesis by the dozens, has turned the situation ugly with many allegations of police brutalities.
To understand what is happening in Nepal, there is need to revisit Mao Tse Tung’s exhortation (reiterated by Deng Xiaoping) wherein he said, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA are its fingers”. To realize that dream, China’s Ministry of Foreign Liaison under Mao, recruited and supported the Maoists movement in Nepal, along with other similar movements like in Burma (now Myanmar), New People’s Army of Philippines, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Japanese Red Army and Shining Path in Peru.
The Maoist insurgency in Nepal was the long-term strategic move of China. Much before Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda became Prime Minister of Nepal, he had given statement to Nepalese media, saying “The ultimate war will be with the Indian Army”, obviously on behest of CCP that was lining his pockets and had brainwashed him. It is no secret that Prachanda was being given the red carpet by Beijing as ‘Head of State’ by Xi Jinping even when he was not the Prime Minister of Nepal – treated in usual Chinese guile and astute fashion.
Both Chinese hard and soft power have been focused on Nepal over past several years to control this Himalayan country politically and strategically. PLA soldiers in uniform have been observed in the past working in northern Nepal in areas adjoining the border with Tibet known to have uranium deposits.
As early as 2007-2008, China began construction of a 770 kms railway connecting the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with the Nepalese border town of Khasa, connecting Nepal to China’s wider national railway network. Both Chinese hard and soft power have been focused on Nepal over past several years to control this Himalayan country politically and strategically. PLA soldiers in uniform have been observed in the past working in northern Nepal in areas adjoining the border with Tibet known to have uranium deposits. China has deployed PLA in these areas to grab uranium exploration and block Tibetan refugees.
Even in late 1990s, Nepal, under Chinese pressure, stopped issuing refugee identity cards, leaving many Tibetans unable to get higher education or jobs. In more recent years, Thinley Lama raising his voice for rights of 20,000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal was put behind bars. Anything Tibetan or Buddhist is anathema to China and the lives of Tibetan refugees in Nepal is turning into hell with Chinese pressure. China is going full hog to crush Tibetan activities in Nepal and has offered Nepal modernization of the police posts along the Nepal-Tibet border, which could be followed up with an offer of joint patrolling. Since 2010, Nepal commenced deportation of Tibetans crossing the border – handing them back to Chinese authorities. Nepalese authorities prohibit Tibetan residents from gathering in groups, whether to mark the birthday of the Dalai Lama or just to picnic.
By mid Jun 2013, 565 industries with Chinese investment were registered in Nepal attracting Rs 1.12 billion; China had registered hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies and around 31,000 persons are expected to be employed by them. In addition, China has responded positively to Nepal´s request for investment in hydropower and tourism development in Nepal.
This is over and above numerous ongoing development projects and three star hotels in Kathmandu over past several years manned by Chinese PLA, intelligence and Special Forces disguised as civilians. Talks are ongoing between China and Nepal for cooperation in building a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with the assistance of the Chinese government. A SEZ on the Nepalese border side would attract Chinese businessmen to invest in Nepal and produce goods for re-export to China, also attracting foreign investors. The land port at Kyirong in Shigatse Prefecture of TAR is the biggest land trade channel between TAR and South Asia.
Chinese machinations behind the new Nepalese Constitution are obvious; the ensuing agitation assessed in advance, resultant strain on Nepal’s economy, and the adroitness with which the blame could be passed on to India.
The flip side of open borders between China and Nepal as per Wikipedia is that China has emerged a sex trafficking hub for Nepali girls; large number of Nepalese women and girls in recent years have been sold into prostitution or as brides to Chinese men. In 2014, China overtook India as Nepal’s biggest foreign investor, funding power plants, noodle factories and meat-processing units. Nepal’s commerce with China has outpaced that with India by 17 times since 2006. During 2015, Nepal endorsed FDI proposal worth $360million by China to establish a cement plant in Nepal. This is the largest FDI pledged by China so far.
Chinese machinations behind the new Nepalese Constitution are obvious; the ensuing agitation assessed in advance, resultant strain on Nepal’s economy, and the adroitness with which the blame could be passed on to India. China’s strategy of ‘special gifts’ for targeted political leaders has been working beautifully. Protégé Pracahanda not only backs the new Constitution, he performed the theatrics of quitting Parliament and resigning from primary membership from his own UCPN (Maoist) party over purported concerns for the Madhesis. Later, he was chased out in Janakpur by a Madhesi crowd when he refused to burn a copy of the new Constitution.
Now Prime Minister Oli, blames India for an alleged economic blockade of Nepal. His recent statement that his dream to develop the Himalayan nation as “vibrant” nation had been shattered by the “embargo imposed by India” has been protested against by the Nepalese Congress and the Madhesis. It actually reflects the deep-rooted Chinese subterfuge. No doubt with protests and demonstrations at the border, thousands of Nepal-bound freight vehicles are stuck on the Indian side of the border.
More Chinese development projects in Nepal in unstable environment could lead to the requirement of PLA troops to guard them, as has happened in Gilgit-Baltistan.
This has brought the economy of the landlocked Himalayan nation to a grinding halt. Photographs of the long line of stranded trucks in the media and social sites are evident proof. But who are the demonstrators? Madhesis may be Indian origin but they are Nepalese citizens. If Nepal is to deny them political and social rights, does Oli not understand how the LTTE came about in Sri Lanka? Why should India impose any embargo especially when it went all out to help Nepal in wake of the devastating earthquake it suffered in April? Next, if India were to impose an embargo, would any trucks carrying goods be allowed to go anywhere close the border? Or does Oli expect India to send military escorts to take the civilian trucks through Nepalese territory to Kathmandu and other destinations? Will any civilian truck driver venture to drive across a horde of protestors which is Nepal’s own making?
India had proposed amendments to Nepal’s new Constitution in order to break the deadlock within Nepal. Such a move has been criticized by some sections within India saying Nepal is a sovereign country and we should not be doing so. But not only are these Indian suggestions not binding on Nepal, but similarly India has also been recommending to Sri Lanka devolution of powers to Sri Lankan Tamils.
Pakistan welcoming Nepal’s new Constitution is merely to support China’s strategic interests (tail wagging to ‘His Master’s Voice’), there being no Pakistan origin population in Nepal. China would capitalize on the chaos in Nepal, while China’s Confucius Institute in Kathmandu University skillfully portrays China as the most peaceful nation of the century.
…in Pakistan the military has bequeathed the country’s sovereignty for their own benefit to China, while in Nepal it will be the politicians doing so in their own interest.
The game for weaning Nepal away from India is being maximized, with consequential assimilation of Nepal into China, as much as possible. More Chinese development projects in Nepal in unstable environment could lead to the requirement of PLA troops to guard them, as has happened in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The only difference will be that in Pakistan the military has bequeathed the country’s sovereignty for their own benefit to China, while in Nepal it will be the politicians doing so in their own interest. The Maoists and communists in Nepal would welcome such development. There have also been stray incidents of Madesis burning China’s flag, which can lead to more PLA covert induction into Nepal. Significantly, China has recently announced that PLA can be deployed on foreign soil for counter terrorism. Former Pakistani army officer and scholar Agha Amin had prophesied that by 2030, Balochistan will be completely Chinese administered show. Something similar could happen in Nepal, possibly in an earlier timeframe depending on how much the Olis and Prachandas of Nepal are prepared to sell their country and ignore to read the larger Chinese geostrategic objectives.