Ties between Nepal and India are age-old, deep and intense. They encompass religious, cultural, social and spiritual planes. Every Indian wishes Nepal and the Nepalese people well. That is why Nepal’s rapid drift towards the Chinese quagmire is viewed with great concern in India. It is a trap that can only lead Nepal to its doom.
- Major General Mrinal Suman
Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Signs are ominous. Nepal is certainly going the Tibet way, but with a fundamental difference. Tibet was militarily annexed in 1950 and close to one million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese to suppress their demand for freedom. In the case of Nepal, self-serving politicians are handing over the country to China on a platter. Nepal is being economically, politically and culturally colonised.
If the current trend continues, Nepal will soon follow Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to appear in the maps as Nepal Autonomous Region (NAR) of China. Slavery has many connotations. A proud Hindu nation will become a Communist colony due to the mechanisation of unscrupulous and power-hungry politicians.
As per the press reports, China is already calling the shots. It is deciding which politician should rule the country. In other words, the present ruling dispensation owes its existence to the Chinese ambassador in Kathmandu. She is the real ruler and all politicians look up to her for favours and directions. A boundary dispute with India has been raked-up only to curry Chinese favour.
With the signing of agreements worth USD 2.4 billion for various projects, Nepal is getting into a deadly debt trap like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and many African countries. Eventually, the Chinese financial stranglehold will jeopardise its existence as an independent nation.
Concurrently, China is pursuing cultural invasion as well. It has offered financial assistance to those schools that teach Mandarin. Needless to say, the bait has been swallowed hook, line and sinker. Several schools have already decided to make Mandarin a compulsory subject.
Nepal’s future appears bleak. It is just a matter of a decade, or two and Nepal will cease to exist as an independent nation. It will be an autonomous region of China, i.e. NAR. The saga of Tibet’s subjugation helps us make objective forecasts. Here are a few key parallels.
Tibet is autonomous only in name; the Chinese Government exercises total and unbridled control. The locals have no say. Even though TAR has an ethnic Tibetan as the Chairman, he is only a titular figure. He is subordinate to the Branch Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the real power wielder, who is always from the Chinese mainland.
The Chinese Government considers demographic swamping to be the ultimate solution. The Han population is likely to overwhelm the locals in the next two decades. Tibetans are not issued passports and hence cannot visit other countries. Even for visiting mainland China, they need a special permit.
Every street and building in Tibet is embellished with innumerable Chinese flags as if to continually remind the locals that Tibet is under the Chinese rule. Similarly, billboards read ‘Welcome to China’s Tibet’.
Chinese Flag over Potala Palace, Lhasa
Every house is mandated to fly the Chinese flag on the rooftop; and its height must be more than that of the Tibetan prayer flags that traditionally adorn all houses. Non-compliance is construed as an act of defiance of the state authority and is dealt with harshly. Punishment may include imprisonment for anti-national proclivity.
Lhasa-Shigatse Highway Lined with Chinese Flags
China has been systematically annihilating Tibetan culture and religion. Their places of worship and learning have been methodically targeted. Over 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed or ransacked. Damage done to Tibet’s relics, heritage and architecture has been truly horrendous; and beyond redemption.
Buddhists need police clearance to congregate to celebrate their festivals. Local authorities regulate the number of monks that a monastery can accommodate. Monks need official permission to visit other monasteries in large numbers. Armed soldiers invariably accompany them to monitor their activities.
Under the garb of decongesting, demolitions have recently been carried out at Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist institute (academy and monastery) in the world.
Monastery with Chinese Flag
As the Chinese consider the knowledge of Mandarin to be essential for building national cohesion, the Tibetans are compelled to learn Mandarin. As a result, the local Tibetan language is being allowed to die. Most signboards are in Mandarin.
The Chinese behave like the rulers and treat the locals with disdain. The Hans from mainland China occupy all senior government posts and are running prosperous businesses.
On the other hand, the Tibetans have been condemned to menial jobs. All janitors, sweepers, load carriers and labourers are Tibetans. It is sad to see a once-proud community degraded to the status of bonded labour. Poverty continues to afflict most.
NAR of Tomorrow
No crystal gazing is required to visualise the future of Nepal. The elected representative of the people of Nepal will only be figure-head/puppet. The Branch Secretary of the Communist Party of China from the Chinese mainland will call the shots.
Visitors at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu will be greeted with a billboard reading 'Welcome to China's Nepal'. A Chinese flag will fly over the Singha Durbar in Kathmandu, as it flies on Potala Palace in Lhasa. Even the hallowed Pashupatinath Temple may be forced to fly the Chinese flag, as all monasteries are mandated to do in Tibet. All main roads of Kathmandu will be duly decorated with the Chinese flags.
All signboards will be in bold Mandarin, with Nepalese in small font. Over a period of time, Nepalese will be replaced by Mandarin as the main language. All religious places will come under the Chinese scanner. Hindu practices and customs will be discouraged. Religion is an anathema to the Communists. As has been done with the selection of Panchen Lama in Tibet, China may select the Royal Kumari Devi of Kathmandu.
The Hans from mainland China will swamp Nepal to change demography. They will hold all positions of importance and thrive economically, whereas the local Nepali population will be forced to undertake low-paid manual work like sweeping roads. As is their won't, the Chinese will behave like the rulers and treat the Nepalese as pitiable subjects.
NAR will undoubtedly benefit in terms of infrastructural development. Kathmandu, which is perhaps the most underdeveloped and filthiest capital city in the world, will undergo a drastic transformation. Also, huge concrete structures will come up to house the Chinese soldiers.
Some sceptics may consider the above prognosis to be speculative, improbable and far-fetched. They should see the accompanying pictures, taken by me in September 2016. The sight of the Chinese flag lording over the Potala Palace, the hallowed seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal head of the Buddhists, was heart-wrenching.
The narrative of Tibet's tragedy is a saga of brutal decimation of an ancient, rich and peace-loving culture by vicious China. Tibet is a state under foreign siege. A similar fate awaits Nepal.
Ties between Nepal and India are age-old, deep and intense. They encompass religious, cultural, social and spiritual planes. Every Indian wish Nepal and the Nepalese people well. That is why Nepal's rapid drift towards the Chinese quagmire is viewed with great concern in India. It is a trap that can only lead Nepal to its doom. A land of proud people with ancient civilisation certainly deserves to thrive as an independent nation.
History is most unforgiving. The die once cast cannot be undone. Similarly, freedom once lost is extremely difficult to regain, especially from a ruthless tyrant like China. It may be the last opportunity for the people of Nepal to pull their country back from the precipice.
(The writer commanded an Engineer Regiment on the Siachen Glacier. He is an expert on defence procurement and was the Task Force Commander at Pokharan responsible for designing and sinking shaft for the nuclear tests of May 1998)