China’s Influence in Nepal

China strengthens its grip over its neighbor.

Under a media blackout, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao quietly arrived in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu with $135 million in aid for “infrastructure and security” in mid-January, further tightening China’s stranglehold on its landlocked southern neighbor.

When news of the visit emerged, reports suggested as many as eight agreements had been signed between the two countries, though details were scarce. Police and military forces locked down the capital during the premier’s visit and the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported “a large number” of Tibetan refugees were detained in order to bar them from protesting.

“The visit has proven a milestone in the development of friendly ties between the two neighbouring countries,” Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha told reporters.

The two sides agreed to strengthen bilateral relations and expand economic cooperation, PTI reported.

Beijing will finance many of Nepal’s infrastructure projects and will fund the modernization of the country’s police force. Also comprising part of the $135 million was a $20 million one-time grant to Nepal and a series of annual grants to assist economic and technical cooperation.

The agreement to modernize policing, which includes building a joint armed police force college, positions China to exert even greater control over the 18,000 Tibetan refugees who fled to Nepal after the violent suppression of protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 2008.

According to a March article in The Economist, the Chinese have established a series of concentric “security rings’ around Lhasa, with the outermost running through Nepal. The article says Chinese operatives are working under the guise of non-governmental organizations, language institutes, and small businesses on both sides of the border in an attempt to quell infiltration by pro-Tibetan forces from India, which they refer to as the “Dalai Lama clique”.

However, China’s efforts at exerting control over Tibetan refugees still face some barriers. Under a long-standing agreement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, new Tibetan refugees are transported to India; and, though the Chinese request certain individuals from Kathmandu, refugees are rarely sent back to Tibet.

But the Nepalese government refuses to issue refugee documents to long-term Tibetan residents of Nepal, denying them access to employment, education, and even driver’s licenses. The U.S. government has offered to bring 5,000 Tibetan refugees to America, but the Nepal government has not accepted.

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