Twenty-five years of ups and downs, ten-years of the people’s war, eight-years to write the constitution and nearly a dozen prime ministers later, it seems like there is little to no long term strategy in Nepal’s foreign policy regarding China.
The KP Sharma Oli led Communist government has been warming up to the Chinese Communist government lately, even though India is Nepal’s largest trading partner, accounting for almost 65 percent of Nepal’s total trade. The landlocked country of Nepal exports nearly 57 percent of its total to India and imports almost 65.5 percent of merchandise goods from India.
On the other hand, China, which currently accounts for just 13 percent of Nepal’s imports mainly because connectivity is hindered by the Himalayas has been amping up its operations in the region. It has been investing heavily in Nepal as Beijing has pledged $8.3 billion to build roads and hydropower plants in Nepal. The Chinese have started planning a railway line from Rasuwagadhi to Kathmandu, which will be 72 km long and will cost $2.7 billion. The plan is to reach Kathmandu by 2029. It is interesting to note that if Nepal seemingly thinks that China is going to help them, they are in for a rude surprise.
Chinese and Communists have been known to desecrate traditions and cultures of the place they traverse and if Nepal does not wake up from its hibernation, it will be reduced to a de-Hinduized communist hellhole. An unprepared and unsuspecting Nepal has been blindsided by the glitter of proposed Chinese investments which could compromise its sovereignty and its cultural identity. In a bid to acquire more from India, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is eager to engage with China but doing so can bring more harm than good to Oli and Nepal’s way, as we have seen with China’s history.
The communists who took the reins in China in 1949 viewed religion as backward and superstitious. Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution in China in 1966, which destroyed tens of thousands of places of worship and historic sites across mainland China. Some 1.5 million people were killed during the Cultural Revolution, and millions of others suffered imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.
Mao’s large-scale attack on the party and system he had created would eventually produce a result opposite to what he intended, leading many Chinese to lose faith in their government altogether and it is something that the Nepalese should be wary of. The Communist party not merely suppresses history, it recreates it to serve the present. In China, this has followed the party’s near self-destruction in the Cultural Revolution, which led to a desperate search for ideological legitimacy.
Even today, you would not find too many places of worship in mainland China. Each succeeding dynasty has re-written its predecessor’s history and as a result China, which we know had a rich civilisational and cultural history existing for a millennia, has been reduced to a mere shadow of its past where only communism grows now and no other religion or culture can think of manifesting itself through its followers as we have seen recently with Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims.
To strip the Chinese people of any memory of their cultural identity, the Chinese Mandarin script was also ‘simplified’ in order to uproot its traditional components. Taiwan, on the other hand, continues to use traditional Mandarin.
China’s cities do not look old. In many cities there exist cultural sites and tiny pockets of antiquity amid oceans of concrete, showcasing glimpses of how haphazardly the history has been written there. Communism itself is based on historical determinism which the communist leaders such as Lenin and Mao used to justify their violent rises to power-regime.
It has been said in reports that Nepali workers-involved in road construction by Chinese are being taught the values of Maoism. They were given Mao badges and were forced to salute Mao’s portrait and chant slogans praising him before they received their wages. The Chinese also put up Mao’s photo above that of King Mahendra which irked the monarchy and caused demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy.
During the Indian blockade four years ago, the Chinese cleverly used the supposedly symbolic train to Gyirong that carried fuel during this period to convey to the Kathmandu-elite that geographical distance between them was easily surmountable. In a display of foolhardiness, the government of Oli created the impression that India was being unfair and partisan towards Madhesis and was hurting their national interest. This propaganda disturbed the political balance in the country. The Nepalese government has developed strong inclination towards the Communist Party of China and its ideals.
KP Sharma Oli‘s government in Nepal also attempted a Communist coup on Hindu places of worship as it brought The Guthi bill sought to amend the Guthi Act with the intention of nationalizing both, public and private Guthis or trusts in order to regulate all religious sites under a powerful commission. The ethnic Newar community in Nepal felt that this move would jeopardize Sanatan Hindu tradition and thus staged protests demanding the withdrawal of the bill, which Oli’s government eventually did.
It was reported that the Chinese companies wanted to place China’s PLA troops at the dams in Nepal to supposedly protect their investments. This proposal was shot down by the Nepali Government. Even in Sri Lanka, as a part of the Hambantota Port Development projects, they pushed for getting their troops to protect the harbour and port where they are, but the Sri Lankan government denied. China is more determined to gain control of Nepalese politics and economy than ever before.
The high-speed railways and the highways that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative are all means to leverage connectivity projects for strategic purposes and at last, get back to India for which Nepal is merely the transit point. It is imperative for the communist government in Nepal to realise that China is not the idol foil for it and sooner than later it will show its true colors in the landlocked Himalayan country.