June 16, 2014


[On June 20,  2011, we had shared a news report with The Vancouver Sun  that China was "providing funds to Nepal to build a $ 3-billion "Buddhist Mecca" to attract millions of pilgrims and spiritual tourists to the birthplace of Gautama, Lord Buddha." We had doubts that the project would ever be implemented because India literally won't want it.  John Whelpton, who has published several books on Nepalese history had even posted a comment onto our Facebook Wall that China would not hesitate to use force when it thought its vital interests were threatened. And now 3 years later, a short note has appeared yesterday in Hindustan Times  that reads - 'constructing (international) airport and railway line at Lumbini poses potential military threats to India." It is understandable that both India and China want a stable, peaceful and prosperous Nepal but a major newspaper from New Delhi hastily publishing, seemingly an uncorroborated  material, certainly creates tension among these three neighbouring countries as India's over reaching into Nepal's internal affairs has been already despised very much in Kathmandu.  - The Blogger]

By Jayadeva Ranade

India’s strategic and foreign policy planners need to be alert as China steadily expands its influence in Nepal. Beijing’s focus is particularly on Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace, which lies inside Nepal and barely 25 km across the border from India. The focus has sharpened since October, when China enunciated its new strategy of ‘Peripheral Diplomacy’, or zhoubian, which outlines a definite role for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At least three Chinese front organisations, or so-called NGOs, affiliated to the CCP Central Committee’s (CC’s) United Front Work Department are active in Nepal.

The Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a Chinese-sponsored NGO, was the first to unveil a $3-billion redevelopment plan for Lumbini in June 2011. Its executive vice-president, Xiao Wunan, is a provincial-level official of the CC’s United Front who claims access to Chinese President Xi Jinping. UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is vice-president of the APECF’s Nepal chapter. Nepal’s Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai is also associated with the APECF.

The APECF’s plans for the redevelopment of Lumbini include an international airport, direct rail link between Tibet and Lumbini and a monastery-cum-seminary complex. The publicised justification for the international airport and rail link is to promote and facilitate Buddhist tourism. The APECF’s plans have failed to get off the ground so far due to various reasons.

Xiao Wunan, on May 10, gave an interview to the Nepalese newspaper Republica in Hong Kong, and announced that the APECF remains ready to launch the project and is awaiting approval of the new government in Nepal. He acknowledged that the “geopolitics of Nepal, which stands between India and China, is so sensitive that it has complicated Lumbini´s development.”

In late 2013, the China Buddhist Association, of which the Beijing-selected the 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu is vice-president, announced it had plans for the development of Lumbini. The association’s presence represents more direct involvement by the CCP in matters regarding Lumbini and would be an attempt to provide a degree of legitimacy to the monastery and seminary.

The latest outfit being used by China is the little-known, Beijing-based International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organisation (IESCO). Significantly, the IESCO lists Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairman of the CPN (UML), as an executive chairman. The IESCO also succeeded in co-opting Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala by inviting her to a conference in Chengdu in July 2013, when it signed a memorandum for ‘strategic partnership’ with her Girija Prasad Koirala Foundation (GPKF). They discussed establishing an ‘international ecological safety demonstration zone’ in Lumbini and the IESCO and GPKF have jointly invited Aung San Suu Kyi to visit Lumbini this month.

Pertinent in the context of China’s objective of undermining the Dalai Lama’s influence and sowing division within the ecclesiastical hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhists is the loose association of Amritsar-born and US-based 48-year-old Shyalpa Tenzin Rimpoche with the IESCO. He is a close associate of Gangchen Rimpoche, who has been critical of the Dalai Lama and is among the first two Tibetan Buddhist clergymen to have been allotted a plot of land in Lumbini.

Constructing the airport and railway line at Lumbini poses potential military threats to India, especially as they will be constructed by Chinese military personnel and operational control would remain with the PLA. More insidious is the challenge projected by the plans for ‘educating’ Tibetan Buddhist monks, who traditionally wield considerable influence in the Indo-Himalayan border belt.

Jayadeva Ranade is a member of the National Security Advisory Board and former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India. He is also president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.
The views expressed by the author are personal.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dr. Bishnu Nepal <bhnfsr@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM
To: The Himalayan Voice <himalayanvoice@gmail.com>

Construction of International Airport in Lumbini also helps promote South Asian/Indian tourism. On no ground it will be a military threat to India, because, Nepal doesn't allow her soil to use to any power against another country. Please See: Nepal's Foreign Policy, Article 6.18 page 38, Legislative Parliament, Published in 2013, Singha Durbar, Kathmandu.

Dr. Bishnu Nepal
Former Ambassador to Japan.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Deo Dhakal
Date: Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 9:25 AM
To: The Himalayan Voice <himalayanvoice@gmail.com>

Nepal will stand nowhere if one starts talking where China or India will be in the future. Nepalese will have to build their country, polity and sort out their differences.

The way we see the problem in Nepal is the rallying force. Earlier the monarchy was there, and that role is not assumed yet by other institution.

It will continue to hunt Nepal for a long time as there are growing supporters for that institution. Also, there will be an avenue for others to pay around.

Perhaps, it is time for round table conference, sort out all the differences and move forward on Nepal's terms and condition. After all, all stakeholders in Nepal are Nepalese, their loyalty comes first to the country. Talking about other countries' interest will not help, it only shows how vulnerable is Nepalese mind.

Dr. Deo Dhakal

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bihari Krishna Shrestha
Date: Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 2:31 PM
To: The Himalayan Voice himalayanvoice@gmail.com

Indian establishment seems to believe that their regional "super power" pretensions are assured only when they create perpetual problems in their immediate neighborhood. Had the Nepali Maoists not been given necessary benefits in India, Dahal and Company would not have been able to inflict such enormous harm on Nepal. So, if anti-Indian elements take advantage of Nepal's perpetually fluid situation in recent years, the Indians alone are to be blamed. One only hopes that they have also the capacity to learn from their folly.

Bihari Krishna Shrestha
Kathmandu, Nepal.