Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Unfolding ‘Great Game’ In South Asia

By Sanjay Upadhya

South Asia’s growing geo-strategic profile is being raised several notches by another global player. Japan plans to create a special South Asia department in its Foreign Ministry, designed to coordinate diplomacy with India and monitor China's regional influence, the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun reported April 5. The new department will also be responsible for focusing greater attention on Pakistan and other South Asian nations, the newspaper said.
During the Cold War, ideological inhibitions and the insularity of South Asian economies had pushed the region to the margins of Japanese diplomacy. Although Tokyo saw South Asia as strategically important, especially in view of the sea-lanes vital to its oil imports from the Middle East, development cooperation with the region took precedence over everything else. As South Asian nations began liberalizing their economies and opening their doors to foreign investment in the early 1990s, Japan's economic involvement in the region grew substantially.
The timing of Japan’s latest effort to step up engagement with South Asia is significant; it comes weeks after the Bush administration merged the State Department’s South Asian and Central Asian bureaus into a single unit. Afghanistan, which is set to officially join the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as a full member later this year, is seen as the vital bridge between the two volatile regions of Asia. The United States and South Korea have applied for observer status at SAARC, a position China and Japan have been granted.

Geopolitical Shift
The geopolitical locus of South Asia underwent a dramatic shift last November when Nepal successfully tied Afghanistan’s SAARC membership to observer status for China. New Delhi’s strong initial opposition to the linkage crumbled as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka backed Nepal.
Clearly, the simultaneous inclusion of Japan – a traditional rival of China to which India has been warming up in recent years -- was intended to mollify New Delhi. For Tokyo, a formal foothold in South Asia comes amid a resurgence of popular opinion in favor of a more vigorous international role.
A recent poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun found 71 percent of Japanese want the country's constitution to "clarify the existence of the Self-Defense Force." Fifty-six percent said the constitution should be modified to take the SDF into consideration. The poll also put the number of those who want the pacifist Article 9 of the constitution revised at 39 percent - the highest percent in five years.
Ever since coming to office in 2000, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has argued the need for Japan to come out of the humiliation of its defeat in the Second World War and consider itself as a regional, if not global, power. In Beijing’s view, Tokyo has already embarked on assertive internationalism, especially in view of its deployments in Iraq, joint development of anti-missile systems, in-air refueling capabilities and interoperability among the various branches of service. China, which opposes Japan’s and India’s bids to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, is anxious to offset a Tokyo-New Delhi alignment in South Asia.

Asian Giants’ Rivalry
To be sure, relations between India and China have come a long way since their brief but bitter border war in 1962. The upturn has been spurred in large part by the two Asian giants’ booming economic ties. China is set to replace the United States as India's leading trade partner in the near future. New Delhi and Beijing, which recently held their second "strategic dialogue," have declared 2006 as a friendship year. They have agreed to cooperate, rather than compete, for global energy resources vital to fueling their growing economies.
Overall relations, however, are still inherently fragile. Contrasting cultures, disparate international outlooks, divergent political systems, and competing geostrategic interests, among other things, have left India-China ties vulnerable to sudden deterioration.
The U.S.-India nuclear deal, which aims to recognize New Delhi as the sixth nuclear power as well as open up civilian nuclear supplies, despite India’s refusal sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is only one of several contentious areas. Beijing believes the deal, signed during President George W. Bush’s visit to India early last month, would have a negative impact on the global nuclear order. The official Chinese media have been less reticent in voicing their concern; editorial writers and opinion columnists warn that if Washington made a nuclear exception for New Delhi, other powers could do the same with their allies.
Two other developments have forced Indians to sit up and ponder. Last November, New Delhi was taken aback by the emergence of a pro-China bloc comprising Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh at the 13th SAARC summit in Dhaka. A month later, at the first East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, China largely succeeded in confining India to the periphery of a future East Asia Community.

Chinese Strategic Contours
The strategic contours of China’s South Asia policy are becoming clearer. After Pakistan and Myanmar, Beijing is skillfully employing economic and military means to draw India’s other smaller neighbors into its own sphere of influence. The People’s Liberation Army’s recent incursions and road construction in Bhutanese territory are aimed at pressuring the tiny Himalayan kingdom to end its protectorate ties with India.
China has been steadily enhancing cooperation with Nepal, where King Gyanendra’s takeover of full executive powers last year prompted widespread international condemnation and arms embargos from traditional suppliers India, Britain and the United States. Spurning Indian pleas not to step into the vacuum, Beijing has supplied arms to King Gyanendra’s government, which – ironically enough -- is fighting a vicious Maoist insurgency.
Amid a downturn in India’s relations with Bangladesh, over such issues as illegal immigration, Islamist terrorism and trade, China has gained naval access to the Chittagong port. Through a road link with Bangladesh via Myanmar, China hopes to access Bangladesh’s vast natural gas reserves. China, the major arms supplier to Bangladesh, recently offered to provide Dhaka with nuclear reactor technology, heightening Indian anxieties.
China's growing regional assertiveness has had its impact on bilateral relations with India. During the last round of border talks in September, Indian analysts detected a hardening of Beijing stance on their long-running territorial dispute. Moreover, China, which finally seemed to have come around to recognizing India’s 1975 annexation of the former Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim, now appears to be going slow on formalizing that position.

U.S. Written All Over
Beijing’s fears that Washington was using New Delhi and Tokyo as part of a broader campaign to contain China were further enflamed in February by the publication of the U.S. Department of Defense's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized Washington for attempting to play up a “non-existent Chinese military threat.”
Chinese analysts see the QDR’s designation of their country as a “strategic threat,” along with the U.S. focus on enhancing its Pacific military assets and increasing its long-range strike capability, as clear preparations for a future conflict. The full implications of a U.S.-led China-containment strategy in South Asia are yet to emerge. In an already volatile region, perceptions have a dangerous way of defining reality.

Originally published on April 12 2006.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pulling Nepal Back From The Precipice

By Sanjay Upadhya

Having endured scathing criticism from much of the world for his February 1 decision to take direct control of the government, Nepal’s King Gyanendra now has a special opportunity to present his case on the sidelines of two major regional forums later this month.
The monarch is scheduled to participate in the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Asian-African summit, considered by many the precursor to the Non-Aligned Movement, on April 22-23 in Bangdung, Indonesia. The following day he is to arrive in Boao, in the Chinese province of Hainan, to attend what is described as the Asian equivalent of the Davos economic forum.
The stakes for the Nepalese entourage could not be higher. The detention of political leaders, declaration of a state of emergency, and imposition of harsh censorship has isolated the royal government. Britain and India have suspended military aid to help fight the nine-year-old Maoist insurgency, which has claimed close to 12,000 lives, while the United States is mulling similar action. Nordic governments have announced a freeze in further development assistance until democracy is restored. The Royal Nepalese Army has come under heavy criticism at the United Nations Commission for Human Rights in Geneva over reports of abuses during its counterinsurgency operations.
The government remains defiant amid the international outcry. In a televised address to the nation on February 1, King Gyanendra justified his takeover, saying the political parties had misgoverned the country since the restoration of democracy in 1990 and blaming them for the rise of the Maoists. He said he needed three years to restore peace, put democracy back on track, and hold fresh elections. He asserted that he needed to suspend civil liberties to focus on the fight against the insurgents. That continues to be the message coming from senior Nepalese ministers and officials.
Predictably, the estranged political parties have decided to mount active resistance against the royal government, which is reminiscent of their conduct during the last opportunity Nepal had to restore peace. In 2003, the mainstream parties, while continuing to voice support for a favorable outcome in the government-Maoist negotiations that were under way, focused their energy on confrontation with the palace, which had just stepped into day-to-day politics for the first time in 12 years. While blaming the obstinacy of the palace-appointed government and “foreign powers” for the collapse of the peace process, the Maoists also lashed out against the mainstream parties’ demand to restore parliament and introduce reforms through amendments “to the old moribund constitution” they had declared war against.
The Maoists, who rebuffed subsequent governments’ peace overtures by insisting they would only talk directly with the king, evidently see in the current crisis an opportunity to mount their much-vaunted strategic offensive against what they consider a tottering state. The government, for its part, appears determined to inflict a decisive blow on the rebels in an effort to force them to the negotiating table.
How far the military’s recent battlefield victories against the Maoists and reports of a deepening schism within rebel ranks will change the dynamics of the nine-year-old conflict remains unclear. There are ominous signs the international community must not ignore. In parts of the country, armed villagers have begun attacking those they suspect of being Maoists. The rebels, for their part, have retaliated against those they consider state-sponsored vigilantes. Amid the mayhem, thousands of villagers have fled across Nepal’s southern border into India.
Regional alignments have been rapidly shifting. India’s initial tough response to the royal takeover, including its decision to halt military assistance, has given way to a sobering recognition in political, diplomatic and academic circles in New Delhi of the possibility of China and Pakistan stepping into the vacuum. Earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing became the highest ranking foreign leader to visit the kingdom since the royal takeover. In the aftermath of Li’s visit, Nepalese and Chinese officials have stepped up deliberations on various sectors – from transportation to trade -- signaling a desire on both sides to offset the kingdom’s traditional dependence on India. Before Li’s visit, Nepal and Pakistan held their first joint economic commission meeting in 10 years. Islamabad extended a $5 million credit line for boosting the kingdom's industrial and commercial development and growth and has promised to provide military assistance if requested.
In the midst of these fast-moving events, a credible roadmap for renewal has become all the more urgent. Restoring the status quo ante cannot lay the basis for an effective agenda for change. The sturdiness of democratic institutions can be ensured only by restoring the people's faith in them. Theoretically, elected representatives can provide people-oriented governance, but the Maoists have vowed to sabotage fresh elections. The restoration of parliament, dissolved three years ago by an elected prime minister exercising his constitutional prerogative, has been advanced as a way out of the crisis. Indeed, such a move may provide the framework for creating a broad-based government. Considering the skirmishes and deadlock successive sessions of parliament have witnessed in past years, advocates of this option need to be more forthright on how a broad-based government would develop a political, security and socio-economic strategy to address the insurgency and the underlying issues.
To the extent that a reform agenda has been formulated, it is centered on constitutional changes to limit royal powers, ensure civilian control over the military, and codify the supremacy of parliament over the palace. Blaming the current crisis on royal assertiveness would be a monumental abdication of responsibility by the other principal players. If the political mainstream and sections of civil society are so convinced that the palace is indeed the problem, then a more credible approach would be deliberations with the Maoists on the structures and sustenance of a republican Nepal. A constitutional monarchy that would exist merely to bear silent witness to the partisan politics of the day is not what Nepal needs.
King Gyanendra has put his throne on the line at a time when Nepal is facing the most serious crisis of its 237-year existence. This is an opportunity for the Nepalese people and their international well-wishers to launch efforts to pull the kingdom back from the precipice. The obsession with viewing the king’s intervention as little more than a palace power grab will not help such efforts.

Originally published on April 13, 2005

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Republican Nepal’s Royal Quandary

By Sanjay Upadhya

Five years after Nepal’s democratic parties and former Maoist rebels joined hands to abolish the 240-year monarchy, turning the world’s only Hindu kingdom into a secular republic, elements on both ends of the erstwhile alliance have begun voicing doubts on the wisdom of that decision.
Their comments come on the heels of growing indications that regional giants India and China, rivals for influence in the small landlocked nation they sandwich, might be working together to prevent instability from seeping into their own borders.
Massive and bloody popular protests in 2006 forced King Gyanendra to restore parliament and end his direct rule. The Maoists, who had waged a decade-long violent insurgency to abolish the crown before entering peaceful politics, eventually persuaded the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist) to abandon their support for constitutional monarchy.
Elections in 2008 made the Maoists the largest party in the constitutional assembly, which formally abolished the monarchy. Their common adversary vanquished, political infighting intensified, leading to five prime ministers in as many years. The assembly failed to write a new constitution institutionalizing Nepal as a federal democratic republic, despite repeated extensions.
Facing mounting public criticism, Nepal’s key political parties earlier this year invited the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Khil Raj Regmi, to head a government of retired bureaucrats to hold fresh elections in November.
Many Nepalis doubt the elections would be held on time, given the deep polarization. Others remain skeptical whether another elected assembly could resolve the tough issues that stymied its predecessor.
Chief among them is the issue of federalism. The Maoists owed part of their success to effective articulation of the aspirations of Nepal’s dozens of ethnic and linguistic communities. These groups – at least 72 by official count – felt marginalized by what they considered a traditionally centralized polity symbolized by the monarchy.
Republicanism has created demands for separate states by many of these groups. Public debates on the model of federalism and the number of states Nepal needs have turned vociferous and protests have often brought the country to a standstill. A growing number of Nepalis now fear a fragmentation of the nation.
The prospect of several microstates in a geopolitically sensitive region has worried China and India. Beijing, long preoccupied with calming Tibet, which Nepal borders, fears destabilization from Nepal spilling all the way into Xinjiang. India, many of whose border states are larger than Nepal, worries of growing separatism within at a time when it is battling a raging Maoist insurgency of its own.
Although China has made significant inroads into Nepal, which India has traditionally considered its exclusive sphere of influence, there have been suggestions of cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi to stabilize Nepal in their mutual interest. Prolonged political instability, both New Delhi and Beijing seem to recognize, would allow extra-regional government and nongovernment forces greater room for maneuver.
In public, the imperative of stability is being expressed more candidly inside Nepal. Shashank Koirala, a leader of the Nepali Congress, conceded in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation that abolishing the monarchy had been a blunder. “There may come a time when the Nepali people might have to bring back the monarchy to save the nation-state,” he said.
Days later, Mohan Baidya, chief of the Maoist faction that broke away from organization that led the insurgency and who is perceived to be close to Beijing, spoke of a possibility of an alliance between his party and the former king. “Royalists are more nationalist than the other political forces,” Baidya said in a jibe at the perceived pro-Indian tilt of the major politicians.
These comments led former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, the chief ideologue of the main Maoist party, to demand the arrest of former king Gyanendra for alleged attempts to subvert the elections. The former monarch is on an extended tour of western Nepal where he is also distributing relief material to people affected by recent floods.
Opinion polls have shown a sharp decline in popular faith in political leaders. However, no survey has directly asked respondents on whether the monarchy should be restored.
Gyanendra ascended to the throne in June 2001 after the bloody palace massacre that wiped out much of the royal family. Although an official report blamed then Crown Prince Dipendra for gunning down King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other relatives over a domestic dispute before killing himself, suspicion long focused on Gyanendra, as the immediate beneficiary.
Before vacating the royal palace seven years later, Gyanendra rejected those allegations and dared those making them to prove his complicity. The two Maoist leaders who had directly accused Gyanendra – Maoist party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Bhattarai – both became prime minister but did nothing to reopen the case. This led many Nepalis to see political posturing in the allegations, allowing them to review their opinion of the former monarch.
During Gyanendra’s previous national tours – marked by inaugurations of temples and attendances in religious ceremonies – he has conceded that direct rule had been a mistake, while keeping open the prospect of a restoration of the monarchy. Leading politicians tended to ridicule the prospect of a return to monarchy. The fact that Bhattarai has now taken a stern tone also suggests that few of his peers may be considering that a laughing matter anymore.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Disturbing Admission Of Failure

By Sanjay Upadhya

In their eagerness to cede power to a ‘non-political’ election government, the architects of our headlong plunge toward a ‘new Nepal’ have admitted failure. That is a disturbing development on multiple levels.
Sections within the erstwhile Seven Party Alliance and the breakaway Maoist group -- representing the ideological core that drove the ‘People’s War’ -- have denounced the move as having been driven by foreign hands. The fact that the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninists seemed to have wilted overnight after ridiculing the idea lends credence to the critics.
Within both major parties, moreover, there are constituencies strongly opposed to the idea of the chief justice leading the government. A section of the Madhesh-based parties, too, has opposed the move from a different direction.
These critics deserve greater attention than those questioning the constitutionality of the move. After all, many of those criticizing the development from a constitutional vantage point are willing to accept it as a needed political outlet. Constitutionalism, in any case, has long ceased to govern the political process.
A political outlet that departs from the parties’ familiar shenanigans may be more attractive to the general public. And this is where things get scary. The foreign elements influencing our affairs hitherto got to shoot from the shoulders of traditional politicians. A ‘non-political’ government runs the risk of providing cover to both the foreign hand and the political parties.
It is hard to believe that the parties advocating such a government would be ready to cede the initiative. The prospect of political brinkmanship by proxy is real, especially when the parties can now consider themselves a step removed from direct responsibility.
The road-blocks to the promulgation of a new constitution will not have been removed by a mere change in the nature of the government. A ‘non-political’ government may be better able to hold credible elections. Yet the parties will have incentives to delay such elections if they perceive adverse conditions to their individual organizations. The parties that were not part of the April 2006 Uprising may see a better chance of earning the trust of the electorate. New realignments could underscore the shifts the public has undergone in these seven tumultuous years. In such a case, political stakeholders other than the principal parties might seek a say in the mechanism overseeing the election government. That would be more than enough to the currently predominant parties to stave off elections. Clearly, a prolonged transition is not in Nepal and Nepalis’ interests. Who, then, stands to benefit?
Unfortunately, the principal political parties seem to have absolved themselves from the responsibility to provide an honest answer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

चीन-भारत भू-सामरिक होडबाजी माझ नेपाल

— सञ्जय उपाध्याय

वृद्ध १४ अौ दलाई लामाको अवश्यंभावी अन्त, विश्व भर छरिए बसेका तिब्बती शरणार्थी समुदायमा व्याप्त असन्तोष एवं स्वतन्त्र तिब्बत अान्दोलन प्रतिको बढ्दो अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय समर्थनले सो हिमाली मु्द्दालाई अन्तर्र्ाष्टि्य समाचार बनाई राख्ने निश्चित छ।
दलाई लामा र उनका दशौ हजार समर्थकलाई बिगत अाधा शताब्दी देखि शरण दिइरहेको भारतले तिब्बत मुद्दालाई चीन सितको आफ्नो सिमा बिबाद सुल्झाउने तथा वृहत द्धिपक्षिक सम्बन्ध सुधार्ने क्रममा सौदाबाजीको तुरुपका रुपमा खुलेरै देख्न थालेको आभास हुंदैछ। यस अवस्थामा दुई एशियाली महाशक्ति राष्ट्र बीच च्यापिएको तथा करिव २०,००० तिब्बती शरणार्थीका घर बनेको नेपाल अझै महत्वपूर्ण क्रिडास्थल बन्ने देखिन्छ।
कम्तिमा नेपालका परिप्रेक्षबाट तिब्बत मुद्दा एउटा भौगोलिक क्षेत्रको स्वतन्त्रता, एउटा संस्कृतिको मुक्ति, वा एउटा जीवनशैलीको सराहना भन्दा भिन्न कुरा रहेको छ। यस क्षेत्र बाह्य शक्तिहरुलाई आफ्ना बिभिन्न स्वार्थ सिद्ध गर्न् थलो रहि आएको यथार्थको साक्षी नेपाली इतिहास बसेको छ।
तिब्बत मुद्दाले नेपालमा एक बिशिष्ट मनोवैज्ञानिक आकार ग्रहण गरेको छ। दलाई लामा तथा उनको संघर्षलाई सबैभन्दा सहानुभूतिपूर्वक हेरिरहेका नेपालीहरुकै पंक्तिबाट तिब्बतमा चीनियां आधिपत्य कायमै रहोस भन्ने चाहना राख्ने धेरै मानिस भेटिन्छन्। कतिपय नेपालीहरुमा स्वतन्त्र तिब्बतका कारण आफ्नो मुलुकले चीन सँ‌गको प्रत्यक्ष सिमाना गुमाउने चिन्ता रहेको पाइन्छ। त्यस्तो अबस्थामा नेपालमा अहिले नै थेग्न नसकिने गरी भइरहेको प्रत्यक्ष र परोक्ष भारतीय हस्तक्षेप अझ बढ्ने डर धेरैमा  छ।
नेपाल-चीन सम्बन्धको केन्द्रमा तिब्बत रहिआए पनि यी दुई देश बीचको अन्तरक्रिया तिब्बतबाट प्रारम्भ भएको थिएन। यो सम्बन्ध चीनका भिक्षुहरुको मध्य एशियाली मार्ग हुँदै ब्यापक गंगा क्षेत्रमा बुद्ध धर्म सम्बन्धी दस्तावेज र विधि-संग्रहको गरिएको प्रत्यक्ष खोजी बाट सुरु भएको हो। इस्वी सातौ सताब्दीमा शक्तिशाली तिब्बती राजा स्रङ चङ गम्पोले ‛विवाह-द्धारा-शान्ति’ भन्ने कूटनीतिक सिद्धान्त बमोजिम नेपाली र चीनियां राजपरिवार बाट एक-एक रानी भित्राएका थिए। यी दुइ रानीहरु आ-आफ्ना माईतीबाट तिब्बतमा बुद्ध धर्म भित्राउन मद्दत गरे जसले गर्दा नेपाल र चीन बीच सिधा हिमाली बाटो खुल्ने आधार बन्यो।
धर्म र ब्यापार हिमाली नाकाबाट वारपार गर्दा गर्दै शान्ति र सद्भाव कमजोर पर्न गयो। भारत माथि बेलायती सूर्य चढ्दै जाँदा नेपालले तिब्बत संग दुइवटा युद्ध गर्यो जसले नेपाल माथि चीनियां सैनिक हमला निम्त्यायो। नेपालले शान्तिका लागि गरेको सन्धिका आधारमा चीनको पैत्रित्व स्वीकार गर्यो भने चीनले नेपाललाई तेश्रो शक्ति विरुद्ध सैनिक संरक्षत्व दिने बाचा गर्यो। नेपालले उक्त सन्धि अन्तर्गत पा‌ंचपांच बर्षमा चीनका सम्राट समक्ष अर्जी र सौगातयुक्त प्रतिनिधिमण्डल पठाउन थाल्यो।
सन् १८१४-१६ को नेपाल-अङग्रेज युद्ध सम्म आइपुग्दा चीनले नेपाललाई सैनिक सहयोग गर्न अस्वीकार गर्यो। नेपाललाई पराजित गरि एकतिहाई भूमि खोसी सकेर पनि चीन-नेपाल सम्बन्धको प्रकृतिका बारेमा अङग्रेजहरु अलमलमै परिरहे। यसले गर्दा दक्षिण एशियामा बेलायती ‌उपनिवेशको जालो फैलिदा नेपालले आफ्नो स्वतन्त्रता कायम राख्न सफल भयो।
सन् १८५५-५६ मा तिब्बत संग तेश्रो युद्ध लडेको नेपालले १९०४ मा तिब्बतीहरुलाई अङग्रेजी ‌आक्रमण बिरुद्ध सहयोग गर्न इन्कार गर्यो। तत्पश्चात बेलायती सेनाको फिर्ती गराउनमा नेपालले महत्वपूर्ण कूटनीतिक योगदान गर्यो। तर त्यो कूटनीतिक सफलता धेरै दिन टिक्न सकेन किनकी जर्जर अबस्थामा पुगी सकेको चीङ साम्राज्यले नेपाल माथि आफ्नो आधिपत्य रहेको सूचना अङग्रेजहरुलाई पठायो। त्यसमा गम्भिर आपत्ति जनाउदै चन्द्र सम्सेर राणाले अङग्रेज सरकार संग सल्लाह गरि चीिनयां सम्राटलाई अर्जी र सौगात पठाउने प्रचलन नै बन्द गरिदिए। यसरी चीङ् सामराज्यको पैत्रित्व स्वीकारी सौगात बुझाउने विदेशी मुलुकहरुमा नेपाल अन्तिम हुन पुग्यो।
तिब्बतमा आफ्नो ब्यापारिक वर्चस्व कायम राख्न तथा आफ्नो स्वतन्त्र अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय अस्तित्वको परिचय दिन नेपालले सन् १९१२ मा बेइजिङ र ल्हासा बीच चीनियां फौजको फिर्तीका लागि सशक्त मध्यस्तकर्ताको भूमिका खेल्यो जस पश्चात् तिब्बतले करिब करिब स्वतन्त्रताको अनूभूति गर्न थाल्यो।
चीनियां राजतन्त्र संग तथा एकआपसमा गहिरो मतभेद भए पनि चीनका राष्ट्रबादी-गणतन्त्रबादी र साम्यबादी दुबै समूहले नेपाल माथि आफ्नो अाधिप्त्य रहेको दाबी कायम नै राखिरहे। सन् यात सेन र माओ जे डोङ दुबैले नेपाललाई चीनले अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय साम्राज्यबाद समक्ष गुमाएका राज्यहरु मध्य भनेर चित्रण गरेका थिए।
तिब्बतमा १९५० मा भएको चीनियां सैनिक प्रवेश माझ भरखरै स्वतन्त्रता प्राप्त गरेको भारतको नयां नेतृत्व पंक्तिले हिमालयको दक्षिण तर्फ साम्यबादको अभ्युदय रोक्ने चुनौति देखे। त्यसै सिलसिलामा भारतले राजतन्त्र अन्तर्गत राणाहरु सहितको बहुदलीय ब्यबस्थाको निर्माण गरी आफ्नो सुरक्षात्मक छाता माझ नेपालको आन्तरिक स्थिति सुदृढ पार्ने प्रयत्न गरे। सन् १९५९ मा नेपालको पहिलो आम निर्वाचनको पूर्वसन्ध्यामा तिब्बतीहरुले चीन बिरुद्ध आन्दोलन सुरु गरे जसको बिफलता पछि १४अौ दलाई लामा भागेर भारतमा शरण लिन पुगे।
यस्तो पेचिलो भू-सामरिक बाताबरणमा नेपालका प्रथम जननिर्वाचित प्रधानमन्त्री बिपी कोइराला चीन र भारत दुबै संग मित्रता कायम राखी नेपालमा प्रजातन्त्र सुदृढ गर्ने अभियानमा लागे। तर उनी असफल भए। राजा महेन्द्रले बहुदलीय पद्धती माथि प्रहार गर्दा चरम राजकीय अहं वा महत्वाकांक्षा भन्दा पनि बदलिदो अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय र क्षेत्रिय राजनीतिक समिकरण कारक तत्व रह्यो।
त्यस बखत नेपाल कयौ एशियाली‚ अफ्रिकी एवं लैटिन अमेरिकी मुलुकहरु जस्तै महाशक्ति राष्ट्र संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका र सोभियत संघ बीचको शीत युद्धको शिकार भइसकेको थियो। ‌‌उता भारत र चीन बीच पनि सीमा लिएर तनाव बढ्दै थियो। त्यसै बेला नेपाल चीन बिरोधी अमेरिका समर्थित तिब्बती खम्पा बिद्रोहीहरुको अखडा बन्न पुग्यो।
१९६० र १९७० का दशकहरुमा त प्रजातन्त्रका खम्बा मानिने अमेरिका र भारत कटुताको सम्बन्धमा लिप्त थिए। त्यस्तै प्रमुख साम्यबादी शक्तिहरु सोभियत संघ र चीन बीच शत्रुता बढ्दै गयो। १९७० को अागमन सगै अमेरिका र चीनको सम्बन्धमा नाटकीय सुधार भयो भने भारत र सोभियत संघ बीच सैनिक गठबन्धन सरहकै सम्बन्ध कायम हुन पुग्यो। यसको प्रभाव नेपाल लगायत ब्यापक दक्षिण एशियाली क्षेत्रमा १९७० र १९८० को दशक भर रह्यो।
१९८० को दशकको अन्त्य हुदा सम्म तिब्बतमा उत्पन्न राजनीतिक अस्थिरता तियनमिएन स्क्वेयरमा भएको बिद्यार्थी अान्दोलनमा समाहित हुन पुग्यो। त्यो आन्दोलन सरकारी दमन र रक्तपातमा परिणत हुंदा नेपालीहरु पूर्वी युरोपमा ब्याप्त प्रजातान्त्रिक लहरले उत्प्रेरित भइरहेका थिए। भारतले लगाएको अार्थिक नाकाबन्दीको छायाँमा संचालित जनअान्दोलन माझ निर्दलीय पञ्चायत व्यवस्थाको अवसान सं‍गै अाफ्नो मित्र शक्ति राजतन्त्रको प्रत्यक्ष शासन समाप्त हुदां समेत आन्तरिक राजनीति सुल्झाउन ब्यस्त चीन चुप लागेर बस्यो।
नेपालको प्रजातान्त्रिक अभ्यासको क्षयीकरण हुदा माअोका नेपाली अनुयायीहरुले जनयुद्धको थालनी गरे। दरबार हत्याकाण्ड पछि नयां राजा ज्ञानेन्द्रले सत्ता आफ्नो हातमा लिदा भारत‚ अमेरिका र पश्चिमा मुलुकहरुले शाही सरकारलाई एक्लाउन खोज्दा चीनले दरबारलाई सहयोग पुर्यायो। त्यसबाट राजा ज्ञानेन्द्रले चीनकै आडभरोसामा सत्ता हत्थाए भन्नेहरुको कथनलाई बल पुर्यायो।
नेपाली बिद्रोहीहरुले माअोलाई बदनाम गरे भन्दै चीनले शाही सरकारलाई बिद्रोह दबाउन सैनिक सहयोग पनि गर्यो। तर एक बर्ष पछि शाही सरकार प्रति आन्तरिक राजनीतिक प्रतिरोध बढ्दै जादा चीन पछि हट्यो र अन्ततगोत्वा दरबारलाई त्याग्दै नेपाली माअोबादी समेत राजनीतिक दलहरुलाई समर्थन गर्यो।
चीनको नेपाल नीतिमा रहेको अस्प्ष्टता र संशयात्मक स्थितिबाट दुबै मुलुकले फाइदा पनि उठाएका छन्। एक थरिले अहिलेको बढ्दो चीनियां गतिबिधीलाई अस्वभाविक मान्दै अन्तत: चीनले आफ्नो सुविधा र अनुकुलताको परराष्ट्र नीतिका आधारमा नेपाललाई भारतकै प्रभाव क्षेत्रका रुपमा स्वीकार गर्नेमा ढुक्क देखिन्छन्। तर नेपालमा चीनको स्वार्थ तिब्बत मुद्दा भन्दा माथि उठेका कारण चीनको नेपाल प्रतिको रुचि उसको ब्यापक दक्षिण एशियाली नीतिमा समाहीत भई बढदै जाने देखिन्छ।
ल्हासामा कुटनीतिक प्रतिनिधित्व रहेको नेपाल एक मात्र बिदेशी मुलुक हो भने बास्तविक्ता बाट उत्पन्न हुने नेपाली दायित्वको बोध चीनले बिभिन्न तरिकाले बारम्वार गराइरहने छ। तिब्बतमा आफूले गरिरहेको ब्यापक बिकास-निर्माण कार्यबाट हुन सक्ने लाभको स्मरण नेपाललाई गराउदै चीनले नेपाललाई नयां दीर्घकालीन राजनीतिक‚ सुरक्षा‚ अार्थिक र सास्कृतिक सम्झौता एवं समझदारी द्धारा द्धिपक्षिय सम्बन्ध विस्तार गर्दै लैजान उत्प्रेरित गरिहने देखिन्छ।
इतिहासलाई बर्तमान नीति र भविष्यको खाकाको आधारशिला बनाउदै गरेका चीनियांहरुले नेपालले चीनको पैत्रित्व मानेको बिगत र चीनलाई अन्तिम अर्जीयुक्त प्रतिनिधिमण्डल पठाएको मुलुकका रुपमा देख्ने क्रम बढ्न सक्छ। यसबाट नेपाललाई भारतको अप्रसन्नतायुक्त प्रभावको सामना गर्ने चूनौति त छंदै छ भने तेश्रो राष्ट्रहरु र तिनिहरु द्धारा स‌चालित गैरसरकारी स‌स्था तथा संयन्त्रका केही गतिबिधिले राजनीतिक अस्थिरतामा गांजिएको नेपाललाई भू-सामरिक सन्तुलन कायम राख्न कठीन पर्ने देखिन्छ।

(यो अालेख स‌‌ंजय उपाध्याय द्धारा लिखित तथा रट्लेजद्धारा लण्डन तथा न्युयोर्कबाट मार्च २०१२ मा प्रकाशित ‛नेपाल एण्ड द जियो-स्ट्रेटिजिक राइभल्री बिट्विइन चाईना एण्ड ईण्डिया’ पुस्तकको सम्पादित अं‌शको नेपाली रुपान्तर हो।)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Nepal and the Sino-Indian Rivalry

Wedged precariously between two giants, Nepal is likely to become an even more important theater

By Sanjay Upadhya

The inevitable passing of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the radicalization of the Tibetan diaspora and the fervor of the international campaign to free Tibet are bound to keep the Himalayan dispute on the world's front pages.
India, which has sheltered the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of his followers, today increasingly sees Tibet as a bargaining chip with China in its overall bilateral relationship. Home to some 20,000 Tibetan refugees and wedged precariously between the assertive Asian giants, Nepal is likely to become an even more important theater.
From Nepal's perspective, at least, the issue of Tibet goes beyond the freedom of a land, the liberation of a culture and a celebration of a way of life. The region always has been a conduit for major external protagonists to pursue wider objectives. The British Empire considered Tibet a critical part of the imperial chessboard, a legacy that lives on in today's geo-strategic milieu where China sees the region as a front rivals are intent on using to contain its rise.
The Tibet issue has a peculiar psychological subtext in Nepal. Some of the same people, who profess the greatest admiration for the Dalai Lama and his cause, also hope that Tibet remains under Chinese control. Many Nepalese recognize that an independent Tibet would leave their country without a border with China. They believe such a situation would allow India, which has long invoked its own version of the Monroe Doctrine in the land-locked nation, to tighten its grip.
Although Tibet has been central to the Sino-Nepalese relationship, Nepal's formal contacts with China did not originate through the region. It began with China's quest for Buddhist texts, artifacts and codes from the wider Gangetic heartland. In the mid-seventh century, a powerful Tibetan king extracted consorts from Chinese and Nepalese royal households on the principle of peace through kinship. The two wives helped bring Buddhism to Tibet and opened a direct Himalayan route between Nepal and China, bypassing the more arduous one across Central Asia.
As religion and trade began traversing the same Himalayan passes, peace and goodwill began losing ground. As the British sun rose higher over India, Nepal fought two wars with Tibet, precipitating a Chinese invasion. The Nepalese gained peace by entering into a tributary relationship with the Middle Kingdom, a duty they would discharge with utmost diligence. The Nepalese became the last foreigners to pay tribute to the Qing, as the arrangement helped maintain their independence as most of modern South Asia fell under the sway of the British Empire.
Nepal, which fought a third war with Tibet in 1855-56, refused to aid the Tibetans against a British invasion in 1904, but helped secure the withdrawal of the invaders. The diplomatic triumph was short-lived as the tottering Qing formally claimed suzerainty over Nepal. Seeking to preserve its interests in Tibet - and project its independence - Nepal mediated between Beijing and Lhasa in 1912, after which Tibet enjoyed a period of de facto independence.
For all their antipathy for the Qing and for each other, Chinese nationalists and communists pressed their country's claims on Nepal: Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong both included Nepal among territories China had lost to imperialism.
The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 impelled the leaders of independent India to restore the monarchy at the top of a multiparty democracy in Nepal to forestall a communist advance southward.On the eve of Nepal's first democratic elections in 1959, Tibetans rose up in a failed revolt against Beijing, prompting the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in India.
Nepal's first elected prime minister, B.P. Koirala, sought unsuccessfully to consolidate democracy by asserting Nepalese independence from India and China. When King Mahendra dissolved parliament, jailed Koirala and most of the elected leadership, and abolished multiparty democracy, much more than royal ambition was at play.
Nepal had become a center of Cold War intrigue where the United States and India - the world's two largest democracies - were working to undermine each other as were the communist giants China and the Soviet Union. By the end of the 1960s, Sino-American rapprochement put the two nations on the same side in Nepal for the duration of the Cold War.
As the 1980s drew to a close, a new round of unrest in Tibet merged with student protests in Beijing, culminating in the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square. The fall of the Berlin Wall inspired the Nepalese to bring down the palace-led partyless Panchayat system, with Beijing a mere bystander.
With the kingdom's democracy turning rancorous, Nepalese disciples of Mao launched a bloody insurgency, a convulsion exacerbated by the assassinations of King Birendra and almost the entire royal family in a June 2001 palace massacre. India, like the United States and Britain, opposed King Gyanendra's February 2005 coup, widely perceived to have enjoyed Chinese backing. Beijing, which accused the Nepalese Maoists of soiling the Great Helmsman's memory, armed the palace against the rebels. Yet a year later, as the royal regime faced massive popular protests, Beijing distanced itself from the monarchy and befriended the Nepalese Maoists.
Chinese policy toward Nepal has been marked by much ambiguity, which both Beijing and Kathmandu have benefited from. One school of thought sees limited Chinese interest in Nepal, where phases of Beijing's assertiveness are the exception. In keeping with its foreign policy of unsentimental pragmatism, this school contends, China could easily concede Nepal as part of India's sphere of influence.
Chinese assertiveness, however, is likely to grow as its interests in Nepal go beyond the issue of Tibet to encompass its wider South Asian strategy. Nepal is only country that maintains diplomatic representation in Lhasa and Beijing reminds Kathmandu with ever greater regularity the responsibility that flows with the privilege. Enticing Nepal with promises of greater commercial benefits as part of its massive investments in Tibet, Beijing is intent on committing Nepal to firm political, security, economic and cultural agreements.
Should tradition become a more dominant part of Chinese regional diplomacy - as also seems likely - Nepal's status as a former tributary to the Middle Kingdom is likely to drive Beijing's policy. This is bound to raise anxiety levels in India, whose own relations with China sit uneasily atop planks of cooperation, competition and confrontation that are vulnerable to extra-regional pressures.

(Sanjay Upadhya is a U.S.-based Nepalese journalist and author. This essay was excerpted from his latest book, Nepal and the Geo-Strategic Rivalry Between China and India (London and New York: Routledge, 2012, 228 pp).

This essay was first published by Global India Newswire

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nepal and the Geo-Strategic Rivalry between China and India

The importance of the Himalayan state of Nepal has been obscured by the international campaign to free Tibet and the vicissitudes of the Sino-Indian rivalry, I write in this new book.
This monograph presents the history of Nepal’s domestic politics and foreign relations from ancient to modern times. Analysing newly declassified reports from the United States and Britain, published memoirs, oral recollections and interviews, the book presents the historical interactions between Nepal, China, Tibet and India.
It discusses how the ageing and inevitable death of the 14th Dalai Lama, the radicalization of Tibetan diaspora and the ascendancy of the international campaign to free Tibet are of increasing importance to Nepal
With its position between China and India, the book notes how the focus could shift to Nepal, with it being home to some 20,000 Tibetan refugees and its chronic political turmoil, deepened by the Asian giants’ rivalry.
Using a chronological approach, the past and present of the rivalry between China and India are studied, and attempts to chart the future are made. The book contributes to a new understanding of the intricate relationship of Nepal with these neighbouring countries, and is of interest to students and scholars of South Asian studies, politics and international relations.

Nepal and the Geo-Strategic Rivalry between China and India
By Sanjay Upadhya
New York and London: Routledge
228 pages
Series: Routledge Studies in South Asian Politics
Published March 1st 2012