Sunday, February 27, 2005

NEPAL:India reviewing sanctions after China, Pakistan make Inroads

When asked about possibility of China providing military aid, the official said: “Of course! Why not? They need arms, and we have already supplied plenty of them. In fact, Nepal does not need arms immediately, and they have not asked for them either. But to show India that they do not need our help as far as the security issue is concerned, they can request China to supply arms. And here our policies would be defeated.”


India Reviewing Sanctions Against Nepal After China, Pakistan Make Inroads
Arun Rajnath

NEW DELHI, February 27: India is getting increasingly concerned and apprehensive about “designs” of Pakistan and China in Nepal, after New Delhi cut off military aid to the Kingdom, a senior government official confirmed to the South Asia Tribune.

This Indian view coincided with some damage control efforts begun by New Delhi when the Indian Ambassador in Kathmandu, Shiv Shanker Mukherjee, met the Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Dr. Tulsi Giri on Thursday. “They discussed matters of mutual interest and bilateral issues, including suspension of military aid,” the senior official said.

New Delhi is disturbed because all Indian efforts to tame the King have failed so far and the King’s hold is gradually strengthening, especially on the issue of Maoist forces, as civilians have also reportedly joined hands with the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) against them.

Officials try to appear confident that Pakistan would not be able to directly intervene in the affairs of Nepal, yet they fear that Islamabad could accelerate covert anti-India operations with Nepal as the base.

But Nepal was already moving fast to seek support from China and King Gyanendra has already closed down three Tibetan refugee offices in Kathmandu in a gesture that would have immensely pleased Beijing.

Indian Home Ministry sources confirmed that about 2000 Tibetan refugees had moved to India from Nepal after the Nepali crackdown on Tibetans so far. Most of them have reached their headquarters in exile, located at Himachal Pradesh.

Informed government sources told the South Asia Tribune: “We know that Pakistan is eager to take advantage of India’s absence. Despite suspended military aid to Nepal, we are in constant touch with the Nepalese authorities.

“The conditions in the sub-continent have substantially changed with the increased interaction between India and Pakistan. It will not be easy for President Musharraf to support Nepal defying India. Pakistan is an ally of the international anti-terrorism movement and the US itself is against King’s abrogation of democracy. In this case, I do not think that President Musharraf or any SAARC country would try do anything,” the official said.

“But, of course, Pakistan can now more easily utilize its agents in Nepal to fan anti-India feelings. We have received reports that due to the suspension of arms supply, Nepali people are feeling more insecure because they have to face the direct onslaughts of the Maoist forces in the villages,” the official said.

This statement was interpreted by analysts as a sign that India may be thinking of reviewing its decision to suspend “all military assistance” to the King.

The Government is also apprehensive about China’s possible and increased role in Nepal in the given situation. Due to Indian sanctions against Nepal, the civil supplies have also been blocked. Essential commodities are being unloaded in the border areas adjacent to Nepali districts.

A top government official said: “Civil supplies from India to Nepal have been blocked, partly due to Maoists’ threat, and partly due to sanctions against Nepal. But we know that China has begun civil supplies to the King.”

When asked about possibility of China providing military aid, the official said: “Of course! Why not? They need arms, and we have already supplied plenty of them. In fact, Nepal does not need arms immediately, and they have not asked for them either. But to show India that they do not need our help as far as the security issue is concerned, they can request China to supply arms. And here our policies would be defeated.”

Strategic expert and retired Lt. General BS Malik corroborated this view. He told the South Asia Tribune: “China would not have any problem in supplying arms to be used against the Maoist forces, as they have nothing to do with these ultras. The Chinese are moving towards the market economy and they have no time worry about their past. They have serious reservations instead against these ultras identifying themselves with the name of Chairman Mao.”

About Pakistan’s possible involvement in Nepal, Gen. Malik said: “The situation has changed now. It is true that Nepal has been the center of the ISI activities in this region. After 9/11, things have become difficult for Pakistan. But how can you stop a country from waging a proxy war?”

Meanwhile on the issue of a formal announcement by India of stalling arms supplies to Nepal, inter-ministerial infighting has begun. Sources say that the issue was neither discussed nor decided in the Cabinet or the Cabinet Committee on Security. The Foreign Ministry decided to make the announcement on its own, unilaterally.

Foreign Office spokesman, Navtej Sarna deliberately evaded questions E-mailed to him on this subject by the South Asia Tribune. The written queries were sent to Mr. Sarna on the advice of his subordinate Under Secretary (External Publicity Division), Vipul. After receiving the E-mail, Vipul telephoned this correspondent and saidMr. Sarna would not answer the written queries. Sarna was not available personally.

Sarna's reluctance had more to do with the apparent rethinking going on within the policy-making circles as King Gyanendra had gone on a diplomatic offensive against the Indians while consolidating his hold domestically. The Indian planners were looking busy trying to repair the damage and the meeting between the Indian Ambassador Shiv Shanker Mukherjee with Dr Tulsi Giri in Kathmandu was seen as a part of the effort. “It was an effort to mollify him,” one official conceded.

King Gyanendra has been openly criticizing India for suspension of the military aid. According to the nepalnews.com, the King said on Thursday: “Are they telling us that we should not fight against terrorism, that we should put our democracy into jeopardy? When we have chosen to uphold democracy and fight against terrorism, why are they shying away from helping us? I can see one thing clearly emerging out of it. Our objectives are the same. We are going to meet somewhere. But we have chosen may be different paths in attaining that objective.”

The King added: “We expect our friends to understand that we are moving in that path. We should not be surprised that some of our friends have expressed dissatisfaction with our move but some of our friends have welcomed it. They must say what they must say and we must do what we must do. We will no more tolerate terrorism and we want that political parties, too, should come up with clear views on this issue.”