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Nepal: Indo-Pacific strategy simplified, BRI, CPEC & Buddhist circuit


Nepal: Indo-Pacific strategy simplified, BRI, CPEC & Buddhist circuitN. P. Upadhyaya, Kathmandu: To begin with, China very well understands the chameleon characteristics of the present day Nepali leadership and thus in all likelihood prefers to keep a near-to-friendly relations with Nepal.The domestic population too takes them as a burden on mother Nepal.

Some even call them as 12 point political animals for reasons unknown to many of the observers.

It is in this light the upcoming a weeklong visit of Nepal President Mrs. Bidya Devi Bhandari to Beijing should be taken.

In inviting Nepal President, China in an implicit manner wishes to hint the innocent and the India tortured Nepali population that Beijing is with the people of Nepal but that should not be presumed that Beijing has any love or for that matter respect for the men ruling Nepal so mercilessly since the very next day of the 2006-the year which tentatively looted the political virginity of this wretched country. It was a sponsored change that damaged Nepal completely.

The other motive of China is to send signals to India that “we shall come to assist Nepali people (not the leadership) if and when India imposes economic blockades on Nepal”.

This is China’s quiet diplomacy.

Mrs. Bhandari is all set to finalize some protocols with China during the visit which shall streamline Nepal-China relations to a much higher level. Some chocolates for Nepal because China thinks that anything big shall be sold as had been in the past.

China helped Nepal during the earthquake on humanitarian grounds. Oli was just the Nepal PM.

It was this timely help that came from China through the land route which had a strong impact on the Nepali psyche and the people were forced to conclude that India could never be a real and reliable friend of Nepal. In fact India is a permanent enemy of Nepal. Rest assured.

Delhi knows why the Nepali people now love to hate India. If the BJP-the Hindu terror machine of India-wins the election then it would be a catastrophe for Nepal. Though the Indian Congress too is not that favorable for Nepal but yet it is better than the terror machine that includes Sadhvi like Pragya Thakur of the Malegaon bomb blast fame of 2008.
The Sadhvi is a controversial figure in India and is a BJP-election candidate.

Above all China also is in knowledge as to how KP Oli in the mid-nineties lobbied on behalf of the Indian regime and finally managed the ratification of the elusive Mahakali Treaty from the Nepalese India tilted parliament.

It was this lobbying efforts “with full sincerity” that Oli made on behalf of the Indian regime inched him closer to a regime which is now ruling the country through its Nepal stationed third class managers, it is widely believed but remains yet to be substantiated.

While India has summarily rejected Chinese invitation for the upcoming Belt and Road Initiative meet to be held in Beijing then the Russian President Vladimir Putin is all set to attend the BRI meet together with the Pak Premier Khan.

Baby Kim is likely to attend the BRI meet in Beijing.

Comparatively speaking, Pakistan is more important than Nepal in China’s scheme of things as regards the Belt and Road Initiative and vice versa.

The CPEC is the bond that keeps China and Pakistan “all weather” friendship going. It shall grow further as both prefer to take each other as Iron brothers.

PM Imran Khan is “visiting China from April 25 to 28 to attend the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing”, reports the Dawn Daily.

He would also hold bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang and the two countries would sign several MoUs and agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation, media agencies have said.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing, speaking at an event in Islamabad this Wednesday, said: “The Prime Minister (Imran Khan) is going to China next week and on that occasion, our leaders jointly working with him will elaborate the next stage of CPEC.”

Ambassador Jing said the two sides had also agreed on involving the third-party partners in CPEC projects.

This third party engagement shall add to the strength of the CPEC.

In the meanwhile, a Chinese scholar Dr Zhang Yifeng has said today that China aims at investing $1.3 trillion in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) member states by the year 2027 which would become the single-largest investment by any state to help boost regional and trans-regional connectivity and trade.
India has reasons to panic.

On a different note, in the past one year China has intensified its diplomatic engagement with the new government in Thimuu in order to wean it away from India’s sphere of influence. Bhutan does not have diplomatic relations with China.

But yet chances of Bhutan attending the BRI meet in Beijing appear remote for fear of being penalized by New Delhi-the dreaded Goliath of this South Asian region.

As of other countries of this region, apart from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka are supposed to honor the Beijing invite.
India is the odd man out.

Since Nepal is a signatory to the BRI so under compulsion China has to invite Nepal or else…Nepal doesn’t mean much to China except the Tibetan issue.

Since China has become extra sensitive towards Nepal with the ten days visit of the politically unstable weakest man in Nepal, Comrade Prachanda who visited the US for the treatment of his wife Mrs. Sita Dahal.

Prachanda is also likely to be summoned by the Hague Tribunal if things go as expected.

Geneva appears to have scolded Nepal in the recent days.

China fears that Prachanda may have assured while being in the US that he was round the clock available to play a crucial role in the Indo-Pacific strategy if the US reposed trust on him.
China suspects the credentials of Prachanda and his entire colleagues in government in that he together with his unstable friends may join the forces who wish to destabilize Tibet from the Nepali soil, however, China has nothing to panic as the US Ambassador in Nepal Randy Berry clarifies in a candid manner as to what the Indo-Pacific strategy is and that “it is not that what is being purposely disseminated apparently dampen or even malign the excellent ties in between Nepal and the US”.

Ambassador Berry on April 15, 2019, to be more precise spoke his inner mind. He was talking to Kathmandu post daily.

Look what he speaks on this much publicized strategy in his own words,

“This is really a policy idea that grew out of the roots of Japanese policies. We seized upon it because we think there is a lot of value here to talk about a free and open country, region, and world.

Because we think we all benefit from that.

As our approach to the Indo-Pacific region, the strategy is defined as something that is a label for a policy of engagement. It’s unfortunate that there is a lot of misinformation out in the public sphere somehow that it is an alliance to which people are asked to join; that this is a grouping that is exclusive of others. I find that enormously frustrating because it is absolutely, patently untrue.
There is nothing there to join—this is the name of our policy. It is rooted in a free and open society; it is rooted in regional connectivity in an economic sense, in a political sense; and it is not exclusive. I want to be really clear on that.

One of the important defining statements in Indo-Pacific strategy was delivered by our former defence secretary James Mattis about a year ago. He was asked about this with the suggestion that this was exclusionary to China. And he said that America would never ask a friend or partner to choose between itself and another country. That is not what we do. That’s not what this is about. It’s about as clear as you can enunciate that. This is a conversation about values and anyone who wants to work on the basis of those values, those internationally recognized norms, come to the table. This is an open conversation”.

Moreover, China and the US may have their differences on a variety of topics but yet these two countries are in good terms in Kathmandu which one could see just the other day.
While India ignores the BRI for a variety of political reasons then very freshly one internationally acclaimed U.S. expert on Europe said in Washington April 17, 2019, that more European countries are expected to join the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and that such actions should be encouraged.

“I think more countries will sign up to the BRI,” Ms. Liselotte Odgaard, a senior fellow at Washington-based think tank Hudson Institute, told a seminar that examined Europe’s relationship with China and the United States.

“A lot of countries would like to attract Chinese investments…which I think we should encourage,” she said.

While the Belt and Road Initiative has already been widely appreciated across the globe, yet another brilliant competing idea, indeed a controversial one in all likelihood, has emanated from a

Nepali Scholar, Dr. Bhaskar Koirala who is the Director of Nepal Institute of International and Strategic Studies (NIIS) and a student of Peking University.

Dr. Koirala is a Berkeley, California political science graduate who in his own way floated an idea that talks of a new connectivity-string that “deliberately” excludes Pakistan as how the Growth Quadrangle had calculatedly under the Indian instructions had been designed to isolate Pakistan.

In fact the Growth quadrangle (B’desh, Bhutan, Nepal and India) was a structured plan designed to divorce Pakistan from the South Asian region to allow Indian dominance to prevail for all time to come. And look how the SAARC is clinically dead due to the Indian arrogance and so died the Growth Quadrangle long time back. Nepal too had assisted India in this GQ very secretly.

The Berkeley scholar Dr. Koirala modestly opines that what if we think of the “Mongolia-China-Nepal-India –Myanmar-Sri Lanka corridor”?

He says, “It would represent a growth corridor slicing through the heart of Asia and would provide impetus to economic activities across the Asian continent and that it should be promoted as an economic corridor that is completely open to international economic activity”. (Source Koirala’s FB account)

So far so good. However, Dr. Koirala’s suggestion is indeed a brilliant one in that it is entirely a new scheme which if brought into existence may benefit all the countries which he has mentioned in his presentation. However, what is the guarantee that this corridor as suggested by Koirala also doesn’t die an unnatural death due to the Indian ruthless attitude towards SAARC? BIMSTEC is awaiting its expected death.

And why Pakistan has been excluded? This is meaningful in that yet another political scientist of international repute Professor Dev Raj Dahal suggests Koirala to include Myanmar and Sri Lanka so that a Buddhist Circuit could be brought into existence. To recall, the real Buddhist treasure lies across the mountain, in Taxila.

Scattered around the city are several archaeological sites, mostly associated with Buddhism.

So the idea of Dr. Koirala’s connectivity is good as long as Pakistan’s exclusion is convincingly explained with geographical reasons or otherwise? Or else, if it is to be made a Buddhist circuit as suggested by Dr. DR Dahal, Pakistan’s Taxila can’t and should be missed.

The countries in this connectivity string are all in one way or the other revere Buddhism and so a circuit of sorts could be envisioned.

Now news trickling from Pakistani new sources claim that the country was trying to convince both the countries, the US and Afghanistan, about its neutrality in the Afghan turmoil.

“We support Taliban talks but we don’t support any group. We only support peace,” said one Pak official, citing the recent contacts with the US and Afghanistan to some media sources.

“Pakistan has been very clear that we will continue to support the Afghan peace process,” the unnamed official told.

On the other hand the deepening relationship between Pakistan and the Gulf states comes at a period of high tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose border with Pakistan has also been the site of periodic clashes and whose past efforts to launch a gas pipeline project linking the two countries remains stalled.

Pakistan Prime Minister during his Iran visit is likely to act like a mediator in between the two declared rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia.

But will PM Khan be able to patch the difference between the two rivals? Sources secretly opine that it is China which wants to patch up the Iran-Saudi differences. Or even the US may have sounded PM Khan to act as a mediator.

Iran has some annoyance with Pakistan as well. However, this visit, April 21, 2019, to Iran shall patch the differences between Iran and Pakistan expectedly.

While Prime Minister Imran Khan has professed a desire to serve as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan faces an increasingly challenging diplomatic balancing act.
After reportedly signing agreements with Saudi Arabia worth $20 billion during a visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan this February, Islamabad is turning towards Riyadh’s regional adversary, Tehran.

Back in Nepal, observers opine that Imran Khan’s modest political overtures shall be heard and listened by both the leadership in Iran and Saudi Arabia. PM Khan is expected to convince the Arabian and the Iranian friends that the Muslims nations need to unite for a variety of political reasons.

Finally, will Khan be able to strike a balance in between Iran and Saudi Arabia? It is here that the PM Khan’s political and diplomatic acumen shall be tested soon. That’s all.

@telegraphnepal

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