Dragon encroaches into Nepal’s border districts

SD Pradhan


Dragon’s expansionist appetite is insatiable. And it is grabbing territories in almost all directions. In the East China Sea, it is trying to bring under its control, Japan’s Senkaku Island and has established Air Defence Identification Zone that covers those of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In the South China Sea, its illegal claim in the nine-dashed lines is not only being pressed but is also expanding. The aggressive Chinese actions have rattled all the countries in the region. Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia have approached UN against the Chinese illegal claims and for the implementation of the PCA Ruling of 2016. In its west, recently its experts have demanded the Pamir plateau from Tajikistan.

Against India, it has been pushing the LAC -its claim line, which is also expanding with the passage of time. It has already grabbed a part of Ladakh called as Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley through an illegal agreement with Pakistan. The Chinese incursions into Indian territory are not uncommon but in April this year, it deployed a large number of PLA troops to deny patrolling by the Indian Army up to finger 8 in the Pangong Tso lake area. The stand-off is continuing with the Chinese double talk. It is also using its borders with Bhutan and Nepal to move the tri-junctions further southwards posing serious security challenges to India.

Stealthily it is also encroaching into the Nepalese territory. The Nepalese survey in 2019 had reflected the Chinese encroachments into its territory covering 36 hectors of land in four different districts, including Sankhuwasabha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Humla, which touch the Chinese border. However, the recent report of the Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry of Nepal suggests China has illegally occupied Nepal’s land in several places spreading over seven bordering districts. This indicates that in one year, China has encroached in three more districts in Nepal. According to the recent report the districts, where China has illegally pushed the international boundary, are Dolakha, Gorkha, Darchula, Humla, Sindhupalchowk, Sankhuwasabha, and Rasuwa. According to one estimate now about 64 hectors land has been occupied by China in Nepal. In Dolakha, China has pushed the international boundary 1500 metres towards Nepal by relocating border pillars.

China has been encouraged by Nepal’s docile approach. The border talks between the two countries have been suspended since 2012 as the Nepalese government did not want to offend China. In June this year members of Nepali Congress had moved a resolution in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Nepalese Parliament, asking the Oli Government to restore the country’s territory, which had been encroached upon by China. However, the present Nepalese PM Oli is reported to have decided to ignore such encroachments by China. Oli is supported by the China in his tussle with other members of NCP demanding his resignation.

Going by the Chinese tactics of militarising the occupied areas to assert its claims and also to take advantage against India, it can be expected that China would soon set up border outposts in the strategic areas around tri-junction. Permanent military structures could be erected as has been done in the South China Sea islands.

These would have serious repercussions on India’s security in the north where the current impasse is continuing due to the intransigent approach of Dragon. The need for deft diplomatic measures in Nepal to push it to oppose such illegal claims of China cannot be underestimated. Alongside, India should take this into its calculus while formulating the strategy to deal with the expansionist China.

China’s aggressive moves are in all directions and this is increasing anti-China sentiments world over. The current situation can be leveraged to contain China and this demands a joint effort with other nations. While economic measures have been initiated by several countries and this would impose a heavy cost on China in the long run, the move for operationalisation of the trilateral plus Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) should be given a greater push. The Chinese Belt Road Initiative is being opposed by several nations because they are realising that this is a debt trap to occupy their strategic areas and squeeze political concessions. Myanmar’s powerful military is reported to be opposing the Chinese moves connected with BRI. Pragmatism demands urgent steps for actualisation of ‘Free and Open and Indo-Pacific region’. Internal opposition to Xi is also increasing and it would be necessary to evaluate its impact on the political developments and foreign policy to calibrate our approach.

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