05/16/2009, 00.00
NEPAL
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Fragile Nepal: The battle ground for the war India vs. China

by CT Nilesh
This country has always had to balance itself between the two giants, China in the North and India in the South. India fears a shift in favor of China, with the Maoists going to power in the Nepal. Whilst the present crisis relents this procedure it also tends to create difficulties in the equilibrium of the region.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The political crisis in Nepal deepened, after the Prime Minister and Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) resigned on the 3rd of May. His decision to resign was inevitable after the President, Rama Baran Yadav, asked the army chief to ignore the prime minister’s order to resign. Prachanda wanted the integrate 19000 guerilla fighters into the army that had been  under his leadership for ten years and had fought for the transformation of Nepal from a monarchy to a democracy. The army chief General Rukmangad Katawal was not in favor of this integration, and that’s the reason why the prime minister wanted to dismiss him.

Katawal underwent his  training in the Indian military academy and is considered  as a guarantee by the Indian government against excessive influence of China. The Indian media commented the resignation of Prachanda as a right decision, considering the fact that the  Maoist leader had lost the confidence of the major allies in the government. While India tried its best to prevent  the Maoist prime minister from sacking the army chief, China made it clear to that it would give its entire support  for  the opposite

Nepal’s geographical location between the two Asian giants –India and China- also introduces a underlying  element for the battle for power. This is further compounded by the long drawn out low intensity conflict against the monarchy led by the Maoists, supported by China, that began in 1994 with the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Prachanda. King Gyanendra tried to win over the guerillas offering them participation in the government but finally had to give up the kingdom in April 2006.

As his first visit abroad, the prime minister chose Beijing and then New Delhi.  Lately he was planning  a second visit to China  in order to finalize a treaty of friendship, but  could not due to his downfall. On the other hand he spoke about revising the treaty signed with India in 1950. In an interview to an Indian newspaper he said that “there are great foreign powers that back our enemies. There are forces that did not want this visit (to China)”.

The case of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu is another example of  how Nepal is trying to free itself from the Indian patronage. Since time immemorial this temple was ministered by the Indian Brahmins. Recently the Nepalese Government has issued a regulation that enables the  Nepalese citizens to become priests of the famed Pashupatinath Temple. It should be kept in mind that under the monarchy, Nepal officially was the only Hindu state in the world. Now they have freedom of religion. And this  has  furthermore irritated the Hindu nationalists.

Considering  the long border they share, close cultural and economic ties, the presence of militant Maoist groups in India and the ever growing influence of Beijing , it would be naïve to expect New Delhi to be a passive onlooker in the unfolding drama. Sections of the political class in Nepal tend to blame India for its woes and want closer ties with China to counter the influence of India in the region.  The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, commenting the events, said: “Today there is lack of stability in our neighboring nations, be it Nepal, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. And this could also affect the security of our country.”

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