As China became a country stronger than India, countries of the region in general and India’s neighbors in particular, began to improve their relations with the PRC in the hope that it would protect them against New Delhi
Establishment of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949 with a new Communist brand ideology based on the basics of Marxist- Leninist approach was a tremendous event not only for the continent Asia but also for the whole world. In initial years it was not on good terms with the USSR, another Communist country and a superpower of the time, but soon it proved a strong pillar of Marxist ideology in the region. In addition, after the India-China war of 1962 which went in its favour, it began to counter balance small countries against India. As China became a country stronger than India, countries of the region in general and India’s neighbours, in particular, began to improve their relations with the PRC in the hope that it would protect them against New Delhi. At the juncture, China too wanted to have a harmonious relation with India’s neighbours among which Nepal became a soft target. In line, China extended its military occupation in Tibetin the year 1950 which made Nepal conscious of its territorial security. From security and strategic point of China also wanted to take Nepal in its influence and the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship gave China an opportune moment to propagate against India in Nepal. For a large number of Nepalese people, the treaty with Indiawas an encroachment of Kathmandu’s sovereignty because it had imposed several restrictions on Nepal by deploying an Indian military mission. The increasing position of India in Nepal was a matter of concern for China. From the beginning democratic India disliked the system of kingship in Nepal and wanted to establish there a democratic government while China supported the Kingship of Nepal. Hence, the Kings of Nepal preferred good relations with China in place of India. It made easy for China to establish and strengthen its relations with Nepal.
Beginning of China- Nepal relations
Before coming of the Communist rule in China, Nepal enjoyed good relations with both Tibet and China. Beijing had always wanted that Tibet should be in Chinese occupation and Nepal should support China. There was also a history of China Nepal clash over Tibet and in a treaty signed on 24 March 1856 called Treaty of Thapathali between Tibet and Nepal in which Kathmandu expressed commitment to protect Tibet in case of any aggression and in return the government of Tibet will pay Nepalese Rupees 10,000 every year. The Chinese government was also weak and hence Nepal stopped giving tribute and Tibet became totally depended on Nepalesehelp. Till the time India was nowhere among China, Tibet and Nepal. In a further development in the 19th century when the British Raj became unchallenging in the region, Nepal aligned itself with the British India and fully supported latter’s invasion on Tibet. In 1910 China claimed over Tibet but Nepal broke all relations with China and sided with the British Indian Government. Thus, in the year 1911 all Chinese forces were out Tibet and Nepal enjoyed a co-operative relation with the British India and thus the colonial master provided a link of diplomatic relations between India and Nepal.
In practice, Nepal has always supported and sided with strong and when China emerged as a power in regional and global politics, China revived its diplomatic relations with China in 1955 and exchange of resident ambassador took place in 1960. Even before ambassadorial level relations in 1956 China and Nepal signed a new treaty which terminated the Treaty of Thapathali signed in March 1856 and now Nepal recognized Tibet as part of China. Further in 1960 the two countries signed a boundary settlement agreement and a separate Sino-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship. After the treaties Nepal also began to support for the change of Chinese seat in the United Nations. These initial understandings went further and it began to move in the strategic direction when in the year 1961 they agreed to build an all-weather road connecting Kathmandu and Tibet. During the India-China war of October 1962 Nepal maintained neutrality, but after the war its understandings with China deepened further.
China-Nepal strategic relations and its effects
Beginning with diplomatic relations China-Nepal understandings soon converted into a strategic partnership in 1070s, especially after the annexation on Sikkim in the Indian Union. It made Nepalese authorities more apprehensive about India and it also began to plan further for its protection and safety.In the eighties King Birendra of Nepal proposed to declare Nepal a “zone of Peace” between India and China failing which Nepal began to import arms from different countries. In the event when the United States of America, United Kingdom and India refused to supply the same Kathmandu procured it from China.Further in the phase of post-Cold War when the old USSR ceased to be a superpower, China harbored its strategic at regional and global to take the position of potential superpower. Under this policy China, in addition to Nepal also made strategic relations withmore than fifty countries, Brazil, being the first in 1993 followed by Russia, America and India respectively in 1996, 1997, and 2005.However, Nepal on tis part, maintained a equi-distance relationship since the mid-1970s which also affected later when Maoist governments took over in Kathmandu and they instigated anti-India and hate-India campaigns in the country.
Even today, the Chinese hate India campaign is on the rise and gave India an alarming signal for the days to come. Earlier under the regime of King Gyanendra of Nepal China stood with the King against the public sentiment, but after a long civil war between 1996-2006, the process of national election completed in the year2008 when centuries of kingship ended and a democratically elected government assumed power in the country. In the period of civil war China on the one hand expressed sympathy with the Maoists but on the other also supplied arms and ammunitions to suppress the agitators. Now, in Nepal, the Maoists and non-Maoists, governments are declared anti-Indian in spirit and behaviour. The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the first week of October 2019 after Jiang Zemin’s visit in 1996 is a strong indication of strategic partnership between the two countries. It culminated in Nepal’s fresh claim on disputed territories with India including the Kalapani and others in the year 2020.
Economic and trade relations
That Started in 1956 with the first agreement on economic relations between China and Nepal developed to the level on Inter-Governmental Economic and Trade Committee in October 1982. The IGETC, meetings and mutual discussions between the twopaved the ways for technical co-operation and proved a useful platform for growing understanding. In the year 2005 Nepal and China celebrated 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. As a further step they both decided in 2009 to establish “China-Nepal Comprehensive Co-operative partnership to reach a new height in bilateral relationship. It opened a chapter of visits by the high Chinese dignitaries to the Himalayan Kingdom. The Chinse premier Wen Jiabao paid a successful visit at the beginning of 2012, followed by the official tour of Chinese foreign minister in December 2014, about three years later. In recent, the major transit trade treaty between the two was signed on 22 March 2016, which provided mutual benefits for China and Nepal as well.
(Author is Professor and Head, University Department of Political Science, B.N. Mandal University, Madhepura Bihar)