Friday, June 17, 2011

US Proposes Military Base In Nepal : Will China Allow Free Tibet Campaign From Nepal?

Is Nepal heading to an Afghan-like situation? USA has recently proposed for establishing a military base camp in Nepal with substantial military and economic assistance to the landlocked impoverished Himalayan country with the objective to free Tibet from China. Tibet is one of the cornerstones of China's national security policy. For this, Beijing has substantially upped the position of Kathmandu in its foreign policy. China is unlikely to allow the presence of US Army in its next door neighbour and Indo-US ploy of raising free-Tibet movement from the soil of Nepal without challenge, leading to the prospect of confrontation and create an Afghan-like theatre. Such a prospect should indeed also cause a serious concern for Bangladesh as Nepal is in the vicinity of Bangladesh.    Peoples Review of Kathmandu revealed on June 9 that the US government has submitted a draft of military pact with Nepal along with demand for allowing the military base and the bait of defence and economic assistance. The defence ministry has sent the draft to Nepal Army for further study. The US move came following the 16- day visit of Nepal Army Chief Gen Chhatra Man Singh Gurung to USA couple of months ago. The US administration had attached high priority to the visit of General Gurung and was accorded warm receptions whoever he met.    Nepal is reeling under protracted political crisis giving rise to economic meltdown. Decade long Maoist insurgency had brought to an end of the centuries old Monarchy. Because of serious rifts, political parties in constituent assembly (parliament) have failed to write the constitution for the new republic even in three years. The extended tenure of parliament ends on 28 September next, without possibly ending its tasks. The present day Nepal presents an ideal soft ground for external forces to play and exert influence on the two and a half months old shaky Jalanath Khanal led communist government. His government is supposed to end with the end of the tenure of parliament in September. It would be difficult for politically weak and economically vulnerable Nepal to withstand the external pressure.    This being the situation in Nepal, USA has started mounting pressure on Kathmandu for respecting the ' gentleman's agreement' reached about 20 years ago. It is said Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of Nepal Congress had endorsed an agreement with the US for initiating the free-Tibet movement in Nepal. US Deputy Under- Secretary for Population, Refuges and Migration Kelly Clement during her recent visit to Nepal met with Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and urged for respecting the agreement. The foreign ministry says it has no record of the agreement.    Nepal has 1 ,414 km rocky and mountainous common border with Tibet. The free Tibet movement had taken momentum after the introduction of multiparty democracy in Nepal after 1990. Dalai Lama's Tibet government in exile at Dharmashala in India had opened its embassy in Nepal and some of the Nepalese ministers attended receptions hosted by the Dalai Lama's ambassador to Nepal.    Before 1990 , the Tibetans crossing the border could go to India or abroad, but they were not allowed to come back to Nepal. This was a silent policy of Nepal. But after the political change in 1990 , the diplomatic balance maintained by the successive governments respecting the security concerns of China ended and gradually Nepali soil became fertile land for carrying out free- Tibet activities. The Dalai Lama activists also developed a plan for setting up the Baudha area as a mini Lhasa making the area a centre point for the free-Tibet activists from all over the world. When Koirala returned to power in 2008 , the free-Tibet activities reached its peak and for more than six months, violent demonstrations were seen in Kathmandu almost every day.    Just before the Beijing Olympics, China witnessed an uprising in Tibet. While suppressing the rebels the Chinese police recovered a huge quantity of arms from different monasteries in and around Tibet. Those arms were possibly smuggled via Nepal to Tibet. On strong protest, Nepal restricted Tibetans street demonstrations. Many were arrested and deported. The government confirmed that those Tibetans demonstrating in Kathmandu had arrived from Dharamshala in India. China increased patrolling the border against Tibetans flee homes and take refuge in other countries. The number of Tibetan refugees is estimated by the western sources at 1.30 lakh.    Intelligence sources said that Nepal is still a hub of the Tibetans who actually live in exile in foreign countries, mostly in India. They frequently visit Kathmandu and engage in free Tibet activities in border areas of Pokhara, Mustang and other hilly parts of the country as well. India and some European countries are sponsoring different human rights organizations and local NGOs to support the free- Tibet movement. Likewise, they were trying to develop a parliamentarian panel to raise the issue for free-Tibet. To materialize this plan, some groups have been found organizing trips for Nepali MPs (members of constituent assembly) to Dharamshala and fixing exclusive meetings with the Dalai Lama. And the US is now demanding for implementation of the "gentleman's agreement" through which the Tibetan refugees can freely move around Nepal and also carry out their political activities against China from Nepali soil.    Taken over by China in 1950 Tibet is now an autonomous region within the Peoples Republic of China. Although most of the lands are non-arable Tibet has strategic and economic interest to Beijing. The region serves as a buffer zone between mainland China on the one side and India, Nepal and Bangladesh on the other. The Himalayan mountain range provides an added level of security as well as a significant mining industry. Beijing has invested in billions in Tibet over the past 10 years for modernization and development. A 710- mile rail line was built over the Himalayan roof that climbs about 18 ,000 feet above the sea level connecting Lasha, the capital of Tibet. It planned railway linking Lasha with Kathmandu. Tibet remains the cornerstone of China's national security policy. It cannot allow next door Nepali soil is used for free- Tibet movement. China has taken steps to build Nepal as an important strategic partner.    To this end, a number of high level delegations of military and security officials visited Nepal since political changes in 2006. Chinese PLA chief Gen Chen Bingde visited Kathmandu in March last. Appointment of high profile diplomat Yang Houlan as ambassador to Nepal is viewed as quite significant. Western educated Yang, a regional security expert was ambassador in Afghanistan. He comes to Kathmandu next week with assignment of obviating the US and western free-Tibet move and turn Nepal a trusted and worthy strategic partner of China.