China has taken the conflict in Nepal very seriously. The civil war may have ended but the conflict still continues politically, with the Chinese leadership paranoid of the potential consequences it could have for its country. China’s main concerns are for its own security and internal strength, so it views Nepal’s relationships with Tibet, and India’s attempts to influence the Nepalese government, as vital issues to address. On the whole, China has been successful in controlling the Tibetan issue and in superseding India and the West as Nepal’s main partner. It has had a relatively positive effect on the conflict, although it remains to be seen how its economic policies in particular affect the marginalised groups of Nepal. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that confidence from the handling of the Nepalese question could lead to more active policies in China’s regional sphere, thus having large consequences for the global balance of power.

 

Nepalese Civil War: 1996-2006

 

Civil War

 

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), fuelled by widespread feeling of marginalisation among the rural population, which had been growing since the 1980s,[1] started what was described as a “People’s War” in 1996 with the intention of replacing the royal parliamentary system with a “People’s Republic”.[2] Initially, the conflict consisted only of small-scale guerrilla fighting until a large-scale offensive by the Maoists in 2001 led to a national state of emergency being declared and the deployment of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA).[3] In the first fourteen months of the emergency period four times the number of Maoists were killed than had been before the emergency.[4] King Gyanendra performed a royal coup in 2005, dismissing the entire government and assuming full executive powers, whilst declaring a second national state of emergency.[5] The Maoists formed an unprecedented coalition with the other six major political parties to form the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) against the monarchy, with the alliance organising massive public demonstrations in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, which ultimately forced the King to step down in April 2006.[6] [7] The war ended in 2006, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Maoists and the main political parties, leading to overwhelming victory in the 2008 elections for the Maoists and the abolition of the 240-year monarchy.[8] [9] Ultimately, the war cost between 13,000 and 17,000 lives, and displaced between 70,000 and 100,000 people.[10] [11]

 

Post-War Difficulties

 

The Nepalese conflict may have ended militarily but it is still very much continuing politically.[12] Instability continues to plague Nepal, with six prime ministers within five years, and violent clashes in 2010 between political groups.[13] Nepal has failed to draft a new constitution, with the Constituent Assembly established in 2008 having its mandate extended four times, leading to increasing popular unrest.[14] Furthermore, the Nepalese Supreme Court suspended plans for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission[15] and there is a serious problem of integrating the 19,000 Maoist combatants into the RNA.[16] However, there is at least fractured dialogue between the various sides, which has prevented the full resumption of hostilities. Nonetheless, the Nepalese conflict remains a highly relevant issue with the potential to destabilise regional security and geopolitics.

 

Chinese Involvement

 

China in the International System

 

China’s economic rise has led to a widespread perception that it attempting to become an aggressive, expansionist power.[17] However, ‘the main tasks of Chinese foreign policy are defensive… blunt destabilising influences from abroad, to avoid territorial losses, to reduce its neighbours’ suspicions, and to sustain economic growth’.[18] China views it self as ‘pacifistic, defence-minded, nonexpansionist, and ethical’, in contrast to the United States, which it views as selfish and attempting to curtail Chinese power by deploying its military around China’s periphery.[19] Therefore, because China believes that as it rises the US will resist, and that the US is in control of this dynamic,[20] it adheres to defensive policies of “Peaceful Development” whereby China focuses on building internal strength through security, and economic capacity. Some Chinese commentators argue that China has the ability to shape the international, or at least regional configuration in its favour by adopting active policies, which can arguably be seen in Nepal.[21]

 

Chinese Stance in the Conflict

 

Initially, China supported the monarchy in the hope that this was the best means of maintaining stability and reliability. In contrast, the Maoists were seen as unreliable with ‘dismay expressed at the use of the name of Chairman Mao’. [22] [23] China’s approach was ‘entirely different from that of other major international players active in Nepal’ in that whilst it remained highly vigilant, China remained silent in the public sphere.[24] However, as the King’s control of the situation weakened, and thus the threat to China grew more severe, the Chinese became more vocal in Nepali affairs.[25] In 2002, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Wu Congwong, described the Maoists as “terrorists”, leading to the provision of $22m worth of arms and ammunition to the RNA, whilst Western donors of arms had withdrawn after the 2005 royal coup.[26] [27]

 

After its support for the king failed to achieve its aims, China followed a pragmatic line of thinking that stability could only be guaranteed through greater cooperation with the new government. Therefore, China began to warm in its attitudes towards the Maoists, even inviting them to China as honoured guests in 2008, and the term “Maoists” started appearing in Chinese media.[28] [29] However, Chinese support encompassed the entire pro-democracy spectrum within Nepal, with Chinese diplomats such as former Major General of the People’s Liberation Army, Wang Hongwei, having a series of meetings with various Nepalese political leaders in 2006.[30] Therefore, China appears to have ‘little concern about what the governance system that delivers stability looks like, but will back the perceived favourite’.[31]

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Motivations

 

China’s primary motivation for involvement in Nepal is the issue of Tibetan political action, which according to China seriously undermines its stability and security.[32] [33] China believes that Nepal is one of the main centres of anti-Chinese Tibetan activities sponsored by Western powers and thus want to stem the flow of disaffected Tibetans fleeing to Nepal, with 12,000-20,000 Tibetan refugees already there.[34] [35] Therefore, China realised that ‘the Tibet issue could no longer be dealt as a solely internal matter’ and it was made a national priority.[36] China was perhaps fortunate in that the Maoist-led government, and also the United Marxist and Leninist-led coalition, were looking to check India’s influence by seeking greater ties with China.[37] Therefore, China had cooperative partners that it could strongly, and fairly easily, influence.

 

In contrast to previous dealings with Nepal, which focussed mainly on aid, China pursued a highly intrusive policy. In light of pan-Tibetan protests in 2008, Chinese embassy officials began directing Nepalese officials over the issue of Tibet, leading to Nepalese authorities cracking down on political activities such as Tibetan community functions, celebrations of the birthday of the Dalai Lama, and the right to vote for the government in exile.[38] [39] Vigilance has been increased at the borders, refugee communities are under strict surveillance, and Nepal no longer provides the necessary document Tibetan refugees need to reach India.[40] [41] In 2012, increased border vigilance led to the number of Tibetan refugees crossing into Nepal halving.[42] China has also been pressurising the Nepalese government to ‘cease honouring the so-called Gentleman’s Agreement providing safe transit for Tibetans to India through Nepal’.[43] Therefore, the significant Chinese vocal and insistent presence in Nepal is bearing fruit when it comes to the issue of Tibet, in which ‘we virtually se an extension of the Chinese state apparatus in Nepal’.[44] Kathmandu has become a nest of spies, many of which are Chinese, who ‘run extensive networks under the cover of volunteer teachers and language institutes, NGOs, restaurants, and small businesses; and they place agents among the refugees themselves before they escape across the mountains’.[45]  As one anonymous Nepalese government source said, “The Chinese government has exerted a lot of pressure on the Nepalese”.[46]

 

China’s secondary motive for increasing its involvement in Nepal is its rivalry with India and desire to control India’s presence in the region. India ‘betrays concern over even minor Chinese initiatives in the country’.[47] This has pushed India into greatly increasing its involvement in Nepal, so much so that it is arguably actually detrimental to itself and arguably to the peace process as well because as India becomes more desperate with its internal meddling it has blocked various political actions. In contrast to China’s positive role in supporting peace consolidation in Nepal, India often micro-managed Nepali politicians, blocked key aspects of the CPA, and even undermined Western support for the peace process.[48] The Maoists blamed ‘machinations by India’ for stalling the peace settlement, claiming that ‘they want to keep Nepal in their command’.[49] Indian meddling has grown to the extent that India reacts in acts of reprisal when China-Nepal relations become too close, such as the 2011 petrol shortage, which is generally considered to have been engineered by India in response to growing engagement with China.[50] Chinese suspicions of India lead to a belief that increasing Chinese involvement in Nepal will be of benefit because China can then have greater control over South-Asian geopolitics, and thus its internal strength. Officially, China has spread the idea that greater Chinese-Indian cooperation is required, and this is shown in the increased number of high-level exchanges between Beijing and New Delhi in 2013.[51] China, in particular, has voiced the potential for an economic partnership between the ‘world’s factory and global service provider’ respectively.[52]

 

China has succeeded in superseding India as the main player in Nepal. For several decades, India had the final word regarding Nepal’s foreign policy and internal security but did nothing to sustain the relationship, instead, it treated Nepal as ‘a second class friend’.[53] Therefore, whilst, the Maoists debate ‘whether India should be considered “public enemy number one”’, China has quickly become Nepal’s new main partner,[54] although strong cultural and economic ties still provide India with some influence.[55]

 

Chinese Legitimacy Within Nepal

 

China’s strong relationship with various political elements within Nepal has helped its rapid rise to become Nepal’s main partner. In addition the provision of no strings attached resources and spread of Chinese culture have been important factors in the Nepalese not viewing China as a threat, and thus accepting increased Chinese involvement, particularly in regard to Tibet. This is in stark contrast to India, which is viewed with much suspicion in Kathmandu. The Nepalese government has strongly condemned what it sees as efforts by ‘colonisers’, in particular the West and India, to ‘teach’ and ‘instruct’ Nepal.[56] Therefore, increased cooperation with China is seen as beneficial in that it can counterbalance the long running “big brother” western and Indian influences.[57]

 

The main reason why China-Nepal relations are currently strong is that aid is provided ‘with no strings attached’, in that conditions such as the makeup of government and human rights issues don’t figure in agreements.[58] Economic grants have been given to Nepal, with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao agreeing in January 2012 to $1.18bn in aid over the next three years.[59] This includes aid money, infrastructure expertise, and economic treaties such as allowing duty free access to 500 Nepalese goods.[60] [61] Such an increase in trade could strongly benefit the redevelopment of the Nepalese economy, particularly if the aid is targeted at marginalised groups and infrastructure projects provide the desired benefits. However, such a large injection of resources could ‘upset the balance of local power and interests’ by further enlarging the delicate inequalities in Nepalese society that originally caused the conflict.[62]

 

China has attempted to increase its long-term influence in Nepal through the spread of pro-Chinese institutions and practices, as well as cooptation of Buddhism, which it hopes will create a more positive sentimentality towards China.[63] Over 30 “China Study Centres” have been established to popularise the Chinese language, promote people-to-people exchanges, as well as disseminate anti-Indian propaganda.[64] [65] Furthermore, an international Chinese radio station has been established along with a “Nepal-China Mutual Cooperative Society” and a Confucian institute (based on the Chinese philosopher Confucius) at the Business School of Kathmandu University.[66] A spread of Chinese values and idea may have the unintended consequence of stirring support for groups like the Janatantrik Tera-Madhesi Mukti Party, which aims to expel ‘non-indigenous populations’, or it could indeed lead to closer cultural and social ties, but it will take time for the effects to become clear.[67]

 

Human Rights

 

Human rights breaches have been a contentious issue in the Nepalese conflict.[68] The civil war witnessed an alarmingly high use of child soldiers[69] and the RNA also employed vigilante death plans, murdering dozens of unarmed “Pahadi” hill people.[70] China’s insistence on policy towards Tibetan refugees has also been heavily criticised, both by the international society and from Nepali civil society.[71] This is the most distasteful part of Chinese policy in Nepal, but China’s “no strings attached” aid for Nepal has meant that it is a highly desirable partner for the various Nepalese leaders, despite being largely dictated to on the issue of Tibet. A condescending pro-human rights approach would likely have resulted in less Chinese control of the situation, particularly in Tibet, perhaps then leading to greater instability and more abuses. Therefore, it seems that the human rights issue will continue unresolved and impunity will become entrenched as China usurps Western governments as Nepal’s main influence.[72]

 

International Community

 

Apart from India, non-western states have had little to say about the Nepalese conflict and China’s growing involvement apart from the UN Mission in Nepal, which lasted from 2006 until 2011 with the objective of monitoring Maoist combatants and preparations for elections.[73] The West is inhibited by the Nepalese government’s desire for ‘hardware rather than software’, which thus makes China a more favourable partner.[74] The West believes that Chinese policy has failed to address issues like democracy and justice, which will simply reignite the conflict.[75] The Maoist offensives of late 2001 were viewed by the US as having the potential to create a haven for international terrorists, with the Maoists viewed in the same light as al Qaeda and Hezbollah, thereby leading to US military support for the RNA.[76] The US remains suspicious of the Maoists in particular, regarding them as ‘illegitimate’. In light of its stance in the conflict and China’s improving relationship with Nepal, the US has found itself increasingly marginalised and its leverage over Kathmandu limited.[77] Therefore, it has sought a more favourable line with China, such as appointing James Moriarty as ambassador to Nepal, who was well known for his advocacy of accommodation to China.[78] The UK followed a similar position to India with a ‘twin-pillars theory’ suspending aid to the king, whilst calling the Maoists to end their violence, which ultimately reduced its influence as both Nepalese sides were confused as to the UK’s position.[79] Therefore, it appears that the West does not currently have an answer to China, although it is feasible that China could overextend itself, but this is something that is more in China’s control than the West’s. Thus the West’s best course of action would be to wait for China’s next move.

 

Conclusions

 

In conclusion, despite the civil war having concluded, there are still tensions in Nepal. These tensions have the potential to destabilise the region, which is a major concern for China. Hence, the Chinese have pursued a pragmatic policy of intervening in Nepal to make sure that Chinese security is not compromised, either by the issue of Tibet or its Indian rivalry. It seems that intervention has brought success on both of these issues, with strong cooperation from the Nepalese government. Chinese policy of including all democratic parties has alleviated some of the major political divides but political paralysis and protests still occur. It remains to be seen whether the large aid packages deliver the required benefits for marginalised groups and those affected by the human rights abuses that China neglects. China’s policy has caused significant tension in India, and has the potential to create destabilising anti-Chinese sentiment in Nepal, although China is doing its best to avoid this through diplomacy and cultural integration.

 

China’s involvement in Nepal is important, as it has shown to be adept and successful at pursuing its national policies. Success in Nepal may lead to further active engagement in Asia, perhaps in the conflict-afflicted areas of Central Asia, thus rivalling Russia, or in the South China Sea, thereby rivalling Japan. Therefore, the China may well pursue the active policies that some Chinese commentators believe it needs to do, with great consequences for geopolitics and its relationship with the US.

 

 

Appendix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix A: Ó GraphicMaps.com. [Online] Available at: http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/np.htm. [Accessed 9th December 2014].

 

 

 

Appendix B: Ó GraphicMaps.com. [Online] Available at: http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/lgcolor/npcolor.htm. [Accessed 9th December 2014].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[1] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012) China and Conflict-Affected States: Between Principle and Pragmatism. London: Saferworld. Print.

[2] Insight on Conflict. (2013) Nepal: Conflict Profile. [Online] Available at: http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/nepal/conflict-profile/. [Accessed 3rd December 2014].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Thapa, D., and Sijapati, B. (2004) A Kingdom Under Seige: Nepal’s Maoist Insurgency, 1996 to 2004. London: Zed Books.

[5] Insight on Conflict (2013).

[6] Ogura, K. (2008) Seeking State Power: The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Berghof Series of Resistance/Liberation and Transitions to Politics. 3. pp. 1-56.

[7] Shiffman, G.M., and Khadka, P.B., (2011) The Onset Versus the Continuation of Insuregency: Nepal, A Single Country, District-Level Analysis. In: Caruso, R. (ed.) Ethnic Conflict, Civil War and Cost of Conflict. Bingley: Emerald Group. pp. 99-130.

[8] Shiffman, G.M. and Khadka, P.B. (2011).

[9] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Insight on Conflict (2013).

[12] Lamont, J., and Pradhan, P. (2010) Nepal Hits Back At Foreign Intervention. [Online] Available at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2c2ee906-610a-11df-9bf0-00144feab49a.html#axzz3Kqb1JHl0. [Accessed 3rd December 2014].

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).

[17] Nathan, A.J., and Scobell, A. (2012) How China Sees America. [Online] Available at: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138009/andrew-j-nathan-and-andrew-scobell/how-china-sees-america. [Accessed 3rd December 2014].

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Xuetong, Y. (2006) The Rise of China and its Power Status. Chinese Journal of International Politics. 1(1). pp. 5-33.

[22] Upreti, B.R. (2010) External Engagement in Nepal’s Armed Conflict. In: Lawoti, M., and Pahari, A.K. (eds.) The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal: Revolution in the Twenty-first Century. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 226.

[23] Sáez, L. (2013) India in Asia: Geostrategic and Economic Considerations. In: Kohli, A., and Singh, P. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Indian Politics. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 320-330.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).

[26] Mage, J. (2007) The Nepali Revolution and International Relations. [Online] Available at: http://monthlyreview.org/commentary/the-nepali-revolution-and-international-relations/. [Accessed 3rd December 2014].

[27] BBC NEWS. (2005) Chinese ‘deliver arms to Nepal’. [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4469508.stm. [Accessed 4th December 2014].

[28] Pettigrew, J. (2013) Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal’s Civil War. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

[29] Mage, J. (2007).

[30] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013) China and Its Peripheries: Securing Nepal in South Asia. [Online] Available at: http://www.ipcs.org/pdf_file/issue/IB232-Jigme-ChinaPeriphery-Nepal.pdf. [Accessed 3rd December 2014].

[31] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012) Op cit. p. 80.

[32] Regmi, R. (2004) Nepal Views on China and SA: Enhancing Cooperation for Joint Progress. [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraphnepal.com/views/2013-06-15/nepal-views-on-china-and-sa:-enhancing-cooperation-for-joint-progress.html. [Accessed 6th December 2014].

[33] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013)

[34] Ghimire, B. (2010) China and India’s Turf War in Nepal. [Online] Available at: http://www.globalsecuritynews.com/China-Asia-India/bhumika-ghimire-1/China-and-Indias-turf-war-in-Nepal. [Accessed 5th December 2014].

[35] Wong, E. (2013) China Makes Inroads in Nepal, Stanches Tibetan Influx. [Online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/world/asia/china-makes-inroads-in-nepal-stemming-tibetan-presence.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&. [Accessed 4th December 2014].

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013)

[39] Wong, E. (2013).

[40] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013)

[41] Sharma, C. (2014) Nepalese Government: No More Refugees from Tibet. [Online] Available at: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Nepalese-government:-No-more-refugees-from-Tibet-32555.html. [Accessed 5th December 2014].

[42] Wong, E. (2013).

[43] Chaturvedy, R.R., and Malone, D.M. (2012) A Yam Between Two Boulders: Nepal’s Foreign Policy Caught between India and China. In: von Einsiedel, S., Malone, D.M., and Pradhan, S. (eds.) Nepal in Transition: From People’s War to Fragile Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 307.

[44] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013)

[45] Bell, T. (2014) Kathmandu. [Online] Available at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/books/an-excerpt-from-thomas-bell-s-fascinating-kathmandu/article1-1258463.aspx. [Accessed 4th December 2014].

[46] Ibid.

[47] Chaturvedy, R.R., and Malone, D.M. (2012) Op. cit. p. 300.

[48] Castillejo, C. (2013) NOREF Report: China’s Impact on Conflict and Fragility in South Asia. [Online] Available at: http://www.peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/f442e4ebf4586d7bccc7b75f81e80c88.pdf. [Accessed 6th December 2014].

[49] Lamont, J. and Pradhan, P. (2010).

[50] Castillejo, C. (2013).

[51] Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. (2014b) China, India Can Look Beyond Differences for Mutual Benefits. [Online] Available at: http://np.china-embassy.org/eng/News/t1193171.htm. [Accessed 7th December 2014].

[52] Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. (2014a) Spotlight: China, India Eye Closer Partnership for Global Peace, Common Development. [Online] Available at: http://np.china-embassy.org/eng/News/t1193169.htm. [Accessed 7th December 2014].

[53] Ghimire, B. (2010).

[54] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012). Op cit. p. 81.

[55] Ghimire, B. (2010).

[56] Lamont, J. and Pradhan, P. (2010).

[57] Bajpai, K. (2013) India’s Regional Disputes. In: Sidhu, W.P.S., Mehta, P.B., and Jones, B. (eds.) Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institute. pp. 115-130.

[58] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012). Op. cit. p. 82.

[59] Wong, E. (2013).

[60] Chaturvedy, R.R., and Malone, D.M. (2012).

[61] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013).

[62] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).Op cit.  p. 80.

[63] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013).

[64] Ibid.

[65] Castillejo, C. (2013).

[66] Yeshe Lama, J. (2013).

[67] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012) Op cit. p. 80.

[68] Amnesty International Nepal. (2014). Amnesty International Nepal’s Delegation Met the Chairperson of Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). [Online] Available at: http://www.amnestynepal.org/campaigns/ai-nepal-activities/amnesty-international-nepal-s-delegation-met-the-chairperson-of-unified-communist-party-of-nepal-%28maoist%29-.html. [Accessed 4th December 2014].

[69] Zia-Zarifi, S. (2007). Nepal, Children in the Ranks: The Maoists’ Use of Child Soldiers in Nepal. Human Rights Watch. 19(2). pp. 1-73.

[70] Mage. J. (2007).

[71] Sharma, C. (2014).

[72] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).

[73] Lamont, J. and Pradhan, P. (2010).

[74] Ibid. p. 82.

[75] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).

[76] Upreti, B.R. (2010).

[77] Campbell, I., Wheeler, T., Attree, L., Butler, D.M., Mariani, B. (2012).

[78] Mage, J. (2007).

[79] Upreti, B.R. (2010). Op cit. p. 227.