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To damage India and US, China is funding Nepal politicians

Source : Sunday Guardian LIVE

To damage India and US, China is funding Nepal politicians
Nepali children wearing traditional clothes at Tribhuvan International Airport bid farewell to China’s President Xi Jinping after his two-day visit in 2019. (Photo: EPA)

With the general elections approaching in Nepal, the proxy war played in South Asia had reached its peak in the Himalayan kingdom. China has increased its funding to anti-India and anti-United States political parties there so that it can install a proxy government in Kathmandu to sabotage the major projects of both countries and fulfill its strategic objectives.

Sources in the Indian security establishment who are privy to the developments told ‘The Sunday Guardian’ that agencies have tracked many channels and methods of Chinese political funding in the run-up to the elections. What was alarming for the agencies is the proportion and magnitude of investment done by Beijing for the upcoming general elections.

People in the security agencies and experts on Nepal believe that countering India’s influence in Kathmandu is one point but the other motive of Beijing is to sabotage the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project of the US in Nepal, so as to give a loud message to the rest of the world that they don’t allow the world’s leading power to interfere in its immediate neighbourhood.

Another alarming development for the Indian security agencies is that just a few kilometres away from the Indo-Nepal border, many Chinese nationals are running different kinds of factories and money is transferred to political parties and candidates at the local level through these factories. One official privy to the developments said, “This is really disturbing not only for India but for all the countries who have stakes in Nepal. We have traced many meat, cigarette and other manufacturing factories near the border in recent months. All the factories have started with Chinese investment. The Chinese nationals are living and running these political operations under the grab of friendly investment. It is not a normal operation.”

“Such factories are operational also in many other districts of Nepal. Through these factories, Chinese are helping their local assets who would fight the coming elections and work for them from a position of power after the polls. The funding to top leaders and assets is being done through a different channel,” he added. It has also come to notice that Chinese propaganda in the run-up to the elections had another socio-political dimension. They have started a ‘one village-one person’ campaign. It is aimed at influencing the village committees as before the parliamentary polls, the elections to local bodies are scheduled in April-May in the Himalayan Kingdom. Unlike many countries, the village units are powerful and influence the decision-making in Nepal.

A senior Nepali politician of the ruling party, who wished not to be named, said, “China wants unilateral hegemonic access in Nepal. They are using every method to negate India’s influence and moreover to sabotage the US’ MCC project. In December, a senior functionary of International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) had a conference call with Shankar Pokharel, the General Secretary of main Opposition party Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) or CPN-UML, on the MCC issue.”

“It was reported that the Opposition leadership has assured Beijing that it would not allow activities that could damage Sino-Nepal relations. It is easy to make inferences about the activity. MCC is one dimension. They are investing huge resources to send a clear signal that Beijing would not allow any such development activity in Nepal which it sees as a potential threat,” he added.

The MCC project is the result of an agreement signed between the US and Nepal in September 2017 under which Kathmandu will receive grant assistance worth more than US $550 million for the development of energy and infrastructure projects. But even after more than four years, the agreement had not been ratified by the Nepalese parliament. As per the clause of the agreement, it can only start if the recipient country gets it ratified by its parliament. Since the last four years Beijing has been successful in dividing the political parties over this issue, China also thinks that the major portion of the grants under the agreement would be spent on the construction of the infrastructure and power projects in the southern portion of Nepal and the surplus power might be supplied to the southern neighbour India.

Hence, Beijing is leaving no stone unturned to influence the elections in Nepal and install a government favourable to it. It is to be seen now as to what approach India and the United States are going to adopt to counter the Chinese strategic investments in this turf war in Nepal.

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