MonitorsPublished on Nov 05, 2010
Nepal's relationship with China has historical links and thus is not new. Their first recorded official engagement dates back to the middle of the seventh century when Nepal's adventurism in Tibet led to Chinese intervention in favour of the latter.
Himalayan Triangle: A Historic Perspective
< class="heading1">Analysis

Nepal's relationship with China has historical links and thus is not new. Their first recorded official engagement dates back to the middle of the seventh century when Nepal's adventurism in Tibet led to Chinese intervention in favour of the latter. It resulted in the Sino-Nepalese Treaty of 1792, which provided for a tribute-bearing mission from Nepal to China every five years as a symbol of China's political and economic supremacy in the region.

Thereafter, Tibet remained a focal point in their off-and-on relations for many years till 1814-16 when British India entered as another important contender for Nepalese loyalties. It was during the first Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814 when China refused to come to Nepal's aid and voluntarily ceded its dominant position in Nepal to the growing British influence in the region. In 1856, the Treaty of Thapathali was signed between China and Nepal -- when the latter invaded Tibet ? which, while acknowledging China's special status, made it obligatory for Nepal to come to Tibet's rescue in case of foreign aggression.

Nepal failed to honour its obligation when British-India invaded Tibet in 1910 which alarmed China about the latter's expansionist designs. In 1911, Nepal broke off its relations with China and declared that it would help Tibet to attain independent status if it was consistent with British interests. The break between Kathmandu and Beijing lasted till 1955, when relations were reestablished with China. Subsequently, a treaty of peace and friendship was signed between them in 1960.

Maintaining a balancing relationship with China is one of the main components of Nepal's China policy. At the other end of the spectrum, there is always one or the other country which Nepal considers crucial for its own survival given its delicate land-locked positioning between India and China, the two emerging Asian superpowers. Earlier, it was Britain whose overwhelming presence in South Asia, and India in particular, gave enough reason for Nepal to sometimes take an independent look at its relationship with China. It was Britain which soon after the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816 made Nepal sign the Treaty of Sagauli, which settled Nepal's present-day boundaries by quashing its claims over the disputed Terai (low lands) territories.

The vacuum left with the departure of Britain in 1947 was duly filled by India which emerged as one of the most formidable players in the neighbourhood in no time. Starting from 1950, two important treaties, viz. Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, and also the Trade and Transit Treaty, provided the basis for bilateral relations between the two countries. Identification of too many similarities and mutual complementarities in the above-mentioned treaties, although well-intended, created suspicion in the minds of the Nepalese about India's intentions and continuously reminded them of their own perceptions of inferior status vis-à-vis India. Events that happened in the Seventies which included the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation in 1971, the Indo-Pak War and creation of Bangladesh, the merger of Sikkim in India in 1974, India's unofficial support to the political Opposition in Nepal, the rise of Naxalism in the areas of West Bengal adjoining Nepalese border and India's nuclear explosion in 1974, added to Nepal's apprehensions about the impact of India's growing stature as a regional power.

It is in this context that Nepal reinvigorated its ties with China as a counterweight to India. Bitter war in 1962 and disputed border claims with India also pushed China to consolidate its presence in the Himalayan Kingdom, thinking that it would be easy to prop up Nepal against India if and when the need arose. Since then, both the countries are seen as vying with each other to influence Nepalese troubled affairs to their satisfaction. Nepal clearly knew that it is impossible for them to cut off ties with India as they are so deeply intertwined with each other into what they call as the 'Roti-Beti' relationship.

So, they thought it better to minimise India's growing influence. If it was not possible, then they would at least like to control it by balancing it with another rising giant China. Nepal's relationship with China is need-based and thus lacks the warmth and depth of India-Nepal relations, no matter how much flawed they might be. It is evident from the past that both China and Nepal are prone to ditching each other whenever the circumstances demanded. India and Nepal shares an enduring relationship irrespective of umpteenth visits by Nepalese leaders to China and vice versa.

Nepal should understand that it cannot overlook India, the fact which even the pro-China Maoists recognize. No initiative by and in Nepal can succeed without India as can be seen from Maoist leader Prachanda's proposal of 'strategic tripartite dialogue' involving India, China and Nepal -- to resolve the current constitutional crisis in the post-royal Republican Nepal. Keeping India's inevitability in Nepal in mind, the Chinese authorities have acknowledgedly advised Prachanda to keep India on board and seek its advice on future initiatives. In fact, it seems that increasing Maoist overtures towards China and their regular India-bashing is now seen as an attempt to involve India by provoking it to resolve Nepal's political deadlock in their favour.

It is not to say that only Nepal has to keep in mind India's regional power status. India should also recognize Nepal's sensitivities in their future dealings. India should acknowledge the fact that while Nepal uses the 'China card' against it on various occasions, Nepal cannot wish away China simply because India wanted it. Or, so goes the argument. China is Nepal's only other neighbour and its sole guarantee against India. In the past, India has made several mistakes in its Nepal policy by seeking to associate a sovereign and fiercely nationalist Nepal with India's defence and economic policies, much to the discontent of the Nepalese people and polity.

In future, India should not try to mistake any of its neighbours as helpless and hapless, dependent exclusively on India's support. There may be many more alternatives available to them in times of crisis, if India's policy faltered or India failed to respond in time. It is imperative that the Indian establishment must become a little more prudent and active in dealing with its neighbourhood and must not shy away from its commitment towards creating a powerful, yet reliable, neighbourhood. This is one lesson that India's Nepal policy may have in store for New Delhi ? or, so is the perception.

The writer is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Shoe hurled at Indian envoy

Maoist cadres hurled shoes at Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood when he was attending a function in the mountainous areas adjoining China. Describing incident as 'highly shameful', Minister for Commerce and Supply Rajendra Mahato claimed that the Maoist activities in recent times have chilled bilateral relations with India, and the Madhesi people living in the Terai region were facing problems with the Indian border security personnel.

The incident has assumed serious proportions, but the Government of caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has not initiated any action to apprehend the culprits. This inaction on the part of the Government has brought sharp criticism from various quarters.
Source: Telegraph Nepal, October 28, 2010,, November 2, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Prachanda calls for a 'strategic tripartite dialogue'

Returning from his visit to China, Maoist supremo Prachanda has proposed a 'strategic tripartite dialogue' between India, China and Nepal to advise Nepal to resolve the recent political deadlock. Maoist vice-chairman Babu Ram Bhattarai has also supported the new idea propounded by his party leader, but said that dialogue is meant for economic prosperity of Nepal, and not for resolving the constitutional deadlock.

Prachanda is seen as having started cozying up with India supposedly on 'China's advice'. However, the Indian authorities are not too pleased with the recent Maoist overtures given the history of Prachanda retracting his statements in the past. However, Prachanda has also expressed his desire to visit India after the festival of Tihar. However, Indian authorities denied having received any such information.
Source: Hindustan Times, October 31, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Protest over service law changes.

At a time when every major decision by the caretaker Government is looked askance, the Cabinet move this week scrapping the twin provisions in the Civil Service Act, it seems, is sure to ruffle the feathers of as many as 15,000 Government employees. The Cabinet has given the nod to carry on with the process of amending Section 24 (D-1), which once endorsed, will do away with automatic promotion for civil servants, based on their holding a graduate degree (12 years) and without the qualification (15 years).

The civil servants have protested the amendment, saying that they were consulted at all. It will affect some 15000 Government employees who are awaiting promotions. A spokesperson at the Ministry of General Administration, which drafted the amendment proposal, argued that civil servants need not worry, saying there would hardly be any substantial change. "Every civil servant (with the new provision in effect) will get a promotion chance on the basis of seniority", he said.

The Government took the decision after it found that the five-year-old provision was against the spirit of meritocracy and competitive professionalism.
Source: Himalayan Times, October 27, 2010

Sri Lanka

Jaffna Government Agent, Imelda Sukumar who was the Mullaitivu GA, has vehemently denied claims that those who crossed over from LTTE- controlled areas to Government-controlled areas carrying white flags were fired at by the army during the concluding days of 'Eelam War IV' last year..Mrs. Sukumar said this while responding to a question posed to her by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Chairman, C.R de Silva, on the issue, during a LLRC session.

Ms. Sukumar maintained that reports of alleged atrocities by the Sri Lankan Army were false. No one was shot by the army when they crossed over carrying white flags. If it had happened I would have known about it. Not a single case of this nature was reported to me," Sukumar said, adding that two of her drivers escaped the LTTE controlled zone carrying white flags and that they informed her of their safe return.

She said that civilians had been used by the LTTE as human shields to serve their own ends. "These civilians wanted to escape but were unable to do so. The LTTE could not have sustained themselves without these civilians. They were necessary for their survival. Although civilians wanted to get away from their grip they were caught in the middle with no way out," she said.

Mrs Sukumar said that most lives were saved due to orders given directly to her from the Security Forces Commander on movements of the LTTE. "I would receive maps and information which I would then send to the Grama Niladhari officers and other departments," he said. She said that there were a number of LTTE casualties as well. She said that this information was collected by each Divisional Secretary and the information was available in the form of a summarized report.

The commission requested for a copy of the said report, which they said should give the total number of casualties, including the LTTE casualties.
Source: Daily Mirror, November 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President's Oxford Union visit postponed

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has postponed his visit to London, the External Affairs Ministry has said. According to a Ministry statement, "President Rajapaksa has had a busy schedule of foreign visits recently to India, the United States of America and China. There is also the important matter of the inauguration of his second term of office in mid-November, leading to a very busy schedule in Sri Lanka."

The statement regretted that "media organizations that carried the news item about the alleged cancellation of the proposed visit by the President to the United Kingdom have done so without any inquiry from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Presidential Secretariat or the Sri Lanka High Commission in London".

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Free trade with Pakistan

At the Foreign Secretary-level consultations held in Islamabad, Bangladesh sought a free trade agreement with Pakistan. The measure is proposed to enhance bilateral trade between the two countries.

Expectation is that free trade between the two countries will help to balance trade that is in favour of Pakistan. Bangladesh exported goods and commodities worth $ 76 million to Pakistan in 2008-09 while bilateral imports totalled $288 million in the same year.
Source: The Daily Star, November 2, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Khaleda demands mid-term poll

The Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief, Khaleda Zia, has demanded mid-term elections, claiming that the Awami League Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had lost the people's trust. Begum Zia opined that the Government had failed to fulfill its electoral promises; hence, it was time to test its popularity.

However, there seem to be lack of consensus within the BNP over the issue of mid-term elections. BNP Secretary-General Khandaker Delwar Hossain claimed that the call for mid-term elections was made by some individuals and that it was not a stand of the party.

The Awami League has categorically ruled out possibility of a mid-term election.
Source: The Daily Star, October 30 & November 3, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">SC ruling establishes separation of powers

A landmark Supreme Court ruling last week over article 171(i) of Parliament's Rules of Procedure has established clear legal precedent for the separation of powers, according to Attorney-General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad.

Parliament, or the People's Majlis, was cancelled for the entirety of last week because MPs from both major parties kept clashing on points of order over Parliament's endorsement of Cabinet Minister, who were appointed by President Mohammed Nasheed in July after resigning en masse in protest against the "scorched earth politics" of the Opposition majority in the House.

Now, the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) argues that Cabinet Ministers should be endorsed individually, and is reported to have a list of six Ministers it wishes to disapprove. The Government meanwhile wants a wholesale endorsement of the Cabinet, a function it argues is "ceremonial" as the no-confidence procedure already existed for Parliament to axe individual Ministers.

At the height of the deadlock several weeks ago, which led to opposition protests, the government went to the Supreme Court in late August claiming that Article 171(i), which states that presidential nominees for the Cabinet must be questioned by a parliamentary committee "to determine qualification, educational background and competence", was outside the Constitution.

The Supreme Court issued an injunction against Parliament debating the endorsement, but consistent derailment of proceedings by DRP members led Speaker Abdullah Shahid to finally cancel all sessions last week.

The Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that while Article 171(i) of Parliament's Rules of Procedure does not contradict with Constitution, it cannot be used in endorsing Cabinet Ministers. Dr Sawad said the ruling "clearly establishes that even if the Majlis does something outside its stated precinct in the Constitution, such an act will be ultra vires?.In terms of legal precedent it has established a Supreme Court endorsement of separation of powers theory in the Constitution, and identifies the separate legal precincts of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary."

While the ruling installs boundaries for parliament, it is unlikely to resolve the political deadlock by itself. "In terms of the deadlock in the Majlis over cabinet confirmation, the ruling says the Majlis cannot put additional stipulations on endorsing ministers. The ruling still leaves it open to political parties to resolve the matter," Dr Sawad said.
Source: Minivan News, October 30, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Need to cut expenditure on salaries: IMF

The Maldives state needs to cease printing money and decrease spending on salaries by "a considerable amount", according to a financial specialist from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).During a presentation earlier this week Dr Rodrigo Cubeiro observed that the Maldives has the highest per capita Government expenditure of any island nation, and wanted it reduced before the economic situation became serious. Reducing that expenditure was in the hands politicians and the government, he said.

In June, the IMF's Country Report for the Maldives pegged the nation's fiscal deficit in 2009 at 26.25 per cent, and noted that while the "political climate for public expenditure cuts remains difficult... the coming months (would) be a crucial test of ability to prevail."

The IMF report acknowledged that "direct redundancies were proving difficult", however "the transfer of employees to the private sector (which accounts for about two-fifths of the planned payroll-cuts) has taken place in line with projections." Nonetheless, the IMF calculated that if the Government continued to pursue economic reform at current pace and policy, the country's fiscal deficit would increase by one per cent of GDP in 2010 and 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2011.
Source: Minivan News, November 3, 2010

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