# By Prem Sagar Poudel
Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao told the then Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, who was on a visit to China, “We have no reason not to help Nepal. However, that support will be less than that of India. If China gives more help than India, it will be difficult for you to work.” BP thought to show Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by bringing more cooperation with China. Mao prevented that idea from coming to fruition. What this incident shows is that in the last six decades, except for some time during the tenure of King Mahendra, China has become a card for Nepal. Nepal’s rulers start playing this card when they are in trouble. Once an easy environment is created, the card’s importance becomes finished.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is now in a difficult situation. The reason behind this is the path he wants to take. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been falling now in a difficult situation. Prime Minister Dahal has always been under tension because the case of human rights violations in the United Nations International Criminal Court (ICC) has not been resolved. Dahal’s case at the ICC is getting more complicated because he has publicly said that he will take responsibility for 5,000 of the 17,000 innocents killed during the Maoist conflict that he conducted. Even the US-imposed terrorist badge has not been removed.
On the one hand, because of the conflict period issue, on the other hand, due to the erosion of the party, Dahal wants to stay in the government even if he connects with the Congress or UML in any way. If he stays outside the government, Dahal has moved forward fearing being surrounded by the national – international arena. It seems that his political journey has always progressed through an uncomfortable path.
While agreeing to elect the Congress candidate as the President after leaving the UML, Dahal only thought of how to withstand the pressure of the West. With Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel becoming the President, Dahal thought that his pressure would shift to Poudel’s head. However, Dahal became more and more burdened by that burden.
While passing the MCC, Dahal began a new relationship with the US by becoming Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s right-hand man. Prior to that, the relationship was more based on suspicion than trust. The post-MCC relationship is built on trust. In a way, Dahal is now following the instructions of the Americans even more than Deuba. India has started playing Dahal like a puppet. Dahal’s friendship with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also grown as India started to dance better than expected.
Deuba’s wife Arju made him enter the headquarters of the BJP on 1 Shrawan 2079 (17 July 2022). Before that, Dahal had no relationship with BJP leaders. Dahal reached India soon after meeting the delegation including Chinese Communist Party leader Liu Jianchao who was visiting Nepal. He also told the BJP leaders about the talks he had with the Chinese leaders.
Dahal, who used the Chinese card as a basis for improving relations with Indians and Americans, is developing as a necessary leader in the eyes of America after passing the MCC. He assured the Chinese that the MCC could not have passed if there were no Maoists on its side. In Dahal’s belief, the Chinese concluded that the MCC would not pass the parliament.
Speaking at an event on 10 Bhadra 2080 (27 August 2023), Former PM Jhalnath Khanal, a senior leader of the ruling party Unified Socialist Party, said that the MCC was an Indo-Pacific strategy set up by US imperialism. Khanal, who was also the coordinator of the MCC Study Working Group formed by the party during the CPN era, was against the MCC. At that time, Dahal had opposed the MCC as a tool to trouble CPN Chairman KP Oli. That protest could not last that long.
Not only the analysis of some recent facts but also Prime Minister Dahal’s plan to go directly to China from America, it is clear that America is the first priority on his list. The question of why America’s land across the seven seas is being used to go to China, which not only has a border with Nepal but has been a good neighbor since ancient times, is also equally important. This means that America is getting closer to Dahal than China today.
US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu, who was visiting Nepal recently, said that he is aware of the party unity that Maoists have advanced with Biplav regarding the obstacles that Biplav’s activists can bring to the MCC project. It was Lu’s idea that he wanted the help of Maoists to create an atmosphere in favor of the American projects in Nepal, including the MCC, by bringing the Biplov to the Maoists. In a meeting with Maoist leaders including Prime Minister Dahal, Lu hoped for help from the Maoists to reduce the voices against American investment in Nepal.
After Lu’s request, without even meeting Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Politicalburo member Yuan Jiajun (a guest invited by him) who was visiting Nepal, Prime Minister Dahal flew to Italy to participate in a must-not-go event. Prime Minister Dahal was thinking of stalling Yuan’s visiting party, which had come at the invitation of the Maoist center. Although the visit was not as expected due to the management by the Chinese side, it was successful to some extent. UML Chairman KP Oli, who was abroad to meet Yuan, returned home.
In May 2022, Assistant Vice President of MCC Jonathan Brooks and the then Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, and the then President of MCA Nepal Madhu Kumar Marasini signed the memorandum of understanding that the agreement will come into effect from August 2023. According to this agreement, the Nepal government is going to implement the MCC project from 13 Bhadra (30 August). At 7.4 of the agreement states that the agreement shall remain in force for a period of five years from the effective date. If the agreement is implemented in August 2023, the construction of the projects should be completed by 29 August 2028. If not, MCC will take back the remaining amount spent.
As the MCC progresses, the visits of American officials to Nepal have increased. Senator Chris Van Hollen is coming to Nepal in the first week of September. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committee. During his visit to Nepal, he is scheduled to meet with government officials, youth leaders, parliamentarians, representatives of civil society, representatives of non-profit organizations, and businessmen. He will visit MCC and US-aided projects and areas of local cultural importance.
The US has recently wanted to base investments in health, power and transport infrastructure. Hollen’s visit will focus on this, his secretariat has mentioned in a statement. After Hollen, high officials of MCC are also preparing to come for the implementation of the project. Apart from that, on Shrawan 25th ( August 10th), a high-level anti-corruption government official appointed by the US President, Richard Nephew, head of the US Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption CGAP, came to Kathmandu for a two-day visit. He discussed with Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority Prem Kumar Rai, Central Bureau of Investigation CIB Chief Kiran Bajracharya, and others.
Prime Minister Dahal’s wish:
If the above role is to be made as a base, now Nepal does not want anything, except for the use of Chinese cards. Prime Minister Dahal wants to expand America’s influence in Nepal by showing China. For this, he has already discussed with the American officials about issues from IPS to SPP. Recently, Prime Minister Dahal has also talked to American officials about the Camp David defense agreement that the US is trying to advance. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Lu, who is visiting Nepal, has also discussed with Prime Minister Dahal the issue of AUKUS, which was moved forward after India’s neglect of the Quad. Japan, South Korea, Britain, and Australia are the main players in the DAVID defense deal. The United States wants Nepal’s assistance in expanding this strategic program in this area.
It seems that Prime Minister Dahal clearly understands the desire of the US due to the recent visit of American officials to Nepal. The then Foreign Minister Pradip Gyawali had decided that Nepal would play a central role in IPS during his visit to America. The agreement could not go ahead due to opposition in Nepal. America also came to the idea of advancing the MCC project in Nepal in any way possible. As a result, the issue of Nepal remaining in the central role of IPS has been passive. However, this issue is not over. The management of the strategic interests of Americans in Nepal is becoming very expensive. Prime Minister Dahal is aware of this matter. However, Prime Minister Dahal does not have the courage to bypass the American and move forward. Therefore, Dahal is also in favor of the Chinese project. One of the reasons behind this is power management. Dahal is trying to get America to his side by showing China. Especially, Prime Minister Dahal is thinking of managing the conflict-time issue in The Hague and the terrorist badge imposed by the US forever. And the American authorities have not shown much interest in this matter. US interest in Nepal seems to be in the following areas.
1) Nepal’s support in carrying out activities that trouble China. As during Khampa, America wants to use Nepalese land to trouble China. The government of Nepal has been seen as an ally in fulfilling the American plan. The government of Nepal is seen in the role of an ally to fulfill the American plan. The government of Nepal has secretly given approval to the American army to stay in four places in the northern region. American troops have been living in Mustang for a long time, in the name of studying the high mountain area. Now, Prime Minister Dahal has agreed to create a comfortable working environment for the American army in Olangchung Gola in the east and Hilsa area in Humla in the west. Even when all the clothes were taken off and naked, the Americans did not believe as expected, so Dahal started playing a Chinese card. It remains to be seen how successful this card will make him.
2) Prime Minister Dahal also agrees to allow Tibetans to do their activities freely in Nepal. In recent times, Tibetans in Kathmandu have started gathering in public places on festivals such as Dalai Lama’s birthday and Chinese Lhosar. Heads of American, Japanese, and Australian diplomatic missions in Nepal have started participating in such programs. On the occasion of Lama’s 88th birthday, a program was organized at Namgyal School premises in Swayambhu, Kathmandu. Last year, Lama’s birthday was celebrated in the open square of Jaulakhel.
In previous years, the government had been banning the celebration of Lama’s birthday in Nepal. As a result, the supporters of the Dalai Lama used to hold birthday celebrations in secret. The police had been controlling the events held in public places.
US Deputy Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights and US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Affairs Uzra Zeya visited Nepal. Before visiting Nepal, she visited the Dalai Lama’s Dharamshala in India. After a long discussion with the Dalai Lama about the Tibetans, his steps turned towards Nepal. Earlier on 9 Baisakh 2079 (22 April 2022), a team led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Nepal. Gillibrand, a researcher on Tibetan religion, met the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama before coming to Nepal.
The US is demanding that Tibetan refugees in Nepal be given identity cards. Since 1995, Nepal, committed to a one-China policy, has stopped giving identity cards to Tibetan refugees. China has a special interest in Nepal regarding Tibetan refugees. The Nepal government has been using the entire state machinery to stop any anti-China program of Tibetans in its land. In addition, the government of Nepal has repeatedly promised not to allow its land to be used against any friendly country. It seems that such a commitment by Nepal is slowly turning into ivory.
Zeya’s team had bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Foreign Minister Dr. Narayan Khadka, and others during their visit to Nepal. During the meeting, the government agreed to allow the Tibetans in Nepal to move freely and not to put any restrictions on organizing the program peacefully. After Zeya’s visit to Nepal, Tibetans have been openly organizing programs in Nepal. Prime Minister Dahal has also been providing facilities given by Deuba to the Tibetans.
3) In recent times, the interest of Americans is that Nepal should fall into the strategic trap put forward by America. To encircle China, America has been looking for Nepal’s cooperation in all the plans put forward by America. American officials are of the opinion that the gap created by India’s non-cooperation in some of the programs that have been moved forward to encircle China can be bridged with the help of Nepal. The latest example is the approval of the MCC by Parliament and increased American activeness in Nepal.
To get the MCC approved by the parliament, the US had put pressure on Nepal by setting a time limit. After that, American officials are visiting Nepal every week. As soon as one group leaves Nepal, another group enters Nepal. Thus, the first interest of those who come to Nepal is about the strategic program put forward by America. On top of that, there is also the issue of Tibetan.
4) Another topic connected with the above three topics is the Nepal-China border. In the last week of Shrawan 2078, a meeting of the Nepali Congress Central Committee was held at Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s residence Budhanilkanth. In that meeting, central member Jeevan Bahadur Shahi emphasized that the border ‘dispute’ between Nepal and China should be resolved. Shahi, who has a permanent home in Humla district, is the same person who had been saying that after the on-site study in 2077, he had prepared a report claiming that China had encroached on Nepali land in Humla. Based on Shahi’s report, the meeting directed the government to form an inquiry committee. It decided to form a committee comprising the survey department, Nepal police, armed police force, and border experts under the coordination of the joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs to study the problems of Namkha Rural Municipality from Limi, Lapcha to Hilsa. The committee reported that there was no dispute with China in the Humla area.
The main companion of the Nepali Congress-led Deuba government was Dahal, the Chairman of the Maoist Center and the current Prime Minister. Even Dahal was asked by Shahi to create an environment of investigation saying that China has squeezed the border. Dahal said he was ready to help and asked Shahi to talk to the Prime Minister. It seems that Dahal is also behind this incident made to defame China. However, he remained silent on the matter outside. Some of the above events make it easy to clarify what Dahal wants with China as the Prime Minister. It can be summarized as follows.
1) China is only the card for Dahal, who is not only the Prime Minister but also the Chairman of the Maoist Center. His will is with America. In recent times, he has also become closer to India. Prime Minister Dahal’s first desire is to fulfill his own interests by using China as a card. Jhala Nath Khanal, a senior leader of the power partner party United Socialist Party, said that on 11 Bhadra (28 August), Nepal will also publicly sign the SPP agreement with the US. Khanal said, “The said agreement has been drafted.” While attending the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Dahal is scheduled to discuss the next project of MCC with the American officials in the sideline talks. This time, Nepal has put forward the idea of advancing the project in a bilateral agreement without passing it through the parliament. The US is seeking surety of parliamentary monitoring of the project before signing the project, for Nepal’s volatile environment.
2) Prime Minister Dahal has said that during his visit to China, he will discuss the issue of opening a new trade border. On Bhadra 12 (August 29), during the meeting of the House of Representatives, Mugu MP Ain Bahadur Shahi asked the Prime Minister whether there was a plan to discuss the opening of the Namche Lagna border crossing during his visit to China. In response, Prime Minister Dahal said: “During the upcoming visit to China, there will be a discussion about opening a new trade border.” It is almost certain that there will be a talk about opening the Namche Lagna naka in Mugu.” In 2012, the Chinese government gave permission to Nepal to use six forts. However, Nepal could not make good use of it.
According to the trade and transit agreement with China, from January 1, 2020, China opened the way for Nepal to use seven sea and land ports to bring goods from third countries. Another important advantage of the agreement with China is the get to use any route. According to the procedural protocol of the trade and transit agreement with China, Nepal can use railways, roads or waterways. Nepal has not yet reached such an agreement with India. India has designated the routes to be used by Nepal. Vehicles carrying Nepalese goods cannot use any other route in India except the designated route.
With the agreement reached on the protocol of the trade and transit agreement between Nepal and China in 2072 (2016), China agreed to recognize 4 more borders of Nepal as international borders. Until now, Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi are the international border crossings with China. Now Nepal will be able to import and export international trade goods from Kimathanka, Nechung, Yari and Olangchung Gola. It has been agreed that transport vehicles registered in Nepal can go to Sigatse for transit transportation with permission. Now cargo can be shipped from Chinese ports using the most convenient and economical route.
Infrastructure construction work has been started including the establishment of customs offices on the Chinese side of Kimathanka, Nechung, Yari, and Olangchung Gola, which have been declared by China as international borders. On the Nepal side, there is no arrangement for the road yet. Even the Rasuwagadhi crossing which is operational, Nepal has not been able to operate it in all seasons. The infrastructure towards Nepal has not yet been built at the border. The Tatopani border, which China did not want to open for a long time because of the increase in anti-China activities of Tibetans, has not been able to run due to the lack of roads to Nepal.
Prime Minister Dahal does not want to talk about the fact that Nepal has not been able to build infrastructure and the border has not been put into operation. He has an interest in using a Chinese card in the name of the border. As a result, the proposal to open a new border with China has been moved forward to scare India. It seems that Nepal should prepare the environment for the operation of the Yari border before the Namche Lagna border of Mugu. Prime Minister Dahal did not pay attention to this.
3) In the meeting of the House of Representatives on 13th Bhadra (30th August), Prime Minister Dahal said that during his upcoming visit to China, he would emphasize on the implementation of the previous agreement. Prime Minister KP Oli visited China after the blockade imposed by India on Nepal in 2072(2015). The agreements made with China at the time of the visit have not yet been completed. Many of the deals on the 6-day long visit to China have been put on hold due to India and the US. Oli had reached an agreement with China regarding the creation of petroleum storage near the border of China in all provinces. The Oli government decided to import 30 percent of petroleum products from China. However, Prime Minister Dahal’s latest visit to India has stalled the deal with China as he signed an agreement to build more petroleum pipelines.
Agreements made during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal and during Vidya Bhandari’s visit to China as President are also stalled. The extradition treaty that started with China was finally stopped due to American pressure. There was a program to sign the treaty during President Xi’s visit to Nepal. The treaty has not been signed yet. Nepal does not even want to discuss the extradition treaty during Prime Minister Dahal’s visit to China. Overall, the visit to China is only Dahal’s card to maintain power. This card seems to be used to influence America and India as well.
Participation in the Belt and Road Initiative
Before discussing this issue, Hou Yanqi, the former Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, said during an interview with the Chinese media Global Times: “Nepal should be a garden of bilateral cordial cooperation and not a battlefield of geopolitical games.” This idea of Ambassador Hou Yanqi explains the situation in Nepal. The ideas She expressed while staying in Nepal about where Nepal is going are becoming more relevant now. Nepal has formally participated in the BRI program put forward by China. However, not only Prime Minister Dahal but many leaders of the current ruling party do not even want to listen to this issue.
Nepal gave in-principle consent to this project in 2014 in OBOR as a preliminary to BRI, which was brought forward in 2013. Despite the agreement in principle, Nepal was hesitant to sign the BRI. After the promulgation of the Constitution in Nepal in 2015, India imposed a blockade. KP Oli was the Prime Minister at that time. During Oli’s visit to China, a transport and transit agreement was signed with China on 21 March 2016. With this agreement, Nepal’s participation in BRI was confirmed.
On 27 March 2017, the then Prime Minister Dahal, during his visit to China, committed the President of China to implement the transport and transportation agreement made by the previous Oli government and to participate in OBOR. After coming to Nepal, Prime Minister Dahal became reluctant to implement the commitment expressed during his visit to China. China hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 14, 2017, in Beijing. China was willing to make Nepal participate in the forum. OBOR should have been signed for that. The signing program was to be held in China. After the government was hesitant to sign until the last time, the Chinese side sought an answer whether yes or no. As a result, the Government of Nepal was forced to sign the OBOR on 12 May 2016.
In the agreement signing ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shankar Das Bairagi, and Ambassador of China to Nepal Yu Hong signed the memorandum. After the signing of the agreement, which took place exactly two days before the first BRI Forum, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara headed the Nepalese delegation to Beijing, the capital of China.
Nepal has signed a transit transport agreement with China on 21 March 2016. Even during Oli’s visit to China, out of the 14 points that were jointly signed by both parties, point no. 6 clearly states BRI, while many other points are also related to the BRI project. However, in practice, Nepal is still not in favor of advancing the BRI. The latest example is Pokhara International Airport.
The Chinese also made the first international flight at the airport, which was built with the help of China’s loan. On June 21, 2023, Sichuan Air made its first charter flight from China to Pokhara. Addressing a program organized on the occasion of the start of international flights from Pokhara, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Chen Song said that Pokhara International Airport is under the BRI project.
Ambassador Song said in the program: “Pokhara International Airport was launched in January 2023. It was designed and built with the help of the Chinese government. It was built by Chinese engineers. Finally, we have successfully landed the international flight at Pokhara International Airport. This is under the BRI project.” Earlier, at the opening ceremony of the airport on January 1, 2023, Ambassador Chan said that Pokhara International Airport is under the BRI project.
After the ambassador’s comments, a debate started in Nepal about the BRI project. Many who work in favor of Americans and Indians argued that the BRI project was not operational in Nepal. Some argued that Nepal was caught in a debt trap from Pokhara Airport, saying that China has set a debt trap, and they are still saying it. Even long after the agreement was signed, the Nepal government not only ignored BRI, but it made clear that there were no BRI projects in Nepal.
On 25 Asar 2080 (10 July 2023), Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud said that no program under the BRI project has been operated in Nepal so far. In the meeting of the International Relations and Tourism Committee under the House of Representatives held last Monday, he said: ‘Nepal signed an agreement with the Chinese government for BRI in 2017. Since then, no project under BRI has been carried out in Nepal. This view of the foreign minister clearly shows that Nepal has not advanced even an inch from the BRI agreement. In other words, such expressions of government officials make it clear that Nepal does not want to advance the BRI project. The reason behind this is India and America.
In October 2017, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said: ‘There are many roads and belts in the world. We cannot agree with the idea of joining one road and one belt. America also has a very big influence in Nepal. Japan, a major development aide of Nepal, also does not agree with the BRI. Nepal has not yet explained to the development partners why it has joined BRI, which has emerged as a central project of World Politics and Development. Under their influence, Nepal has come to the idea of not advancing BRI. Prime Minister Dahal represents the same thinking. On the other hand, the peace proposal put forward by King Birendra also failed due to India’s non-cooperation. Due to India and America, the possibility of BRI moving forward in Nepal is weakening.
Prime Minister Dahal has been saying that he will start discussing big projects during his upcoming visit to China. India has stopped buying not only Chinese-invested projects but also hydropower produced by Chinese contractors from Nepal. No matter who makes it, Nepal has not been able to tell India that it will sell the electricity produced in Nepal to India, even on this issue. Matters related to investment in power projects, Nepalese officials have started giving to India. As a result, international law has also been violated. Nepal’s government has violated the right to privacy of property.
Prime Minister Dahal has already claimed that there will be an agreement on energy cooperation with China during his visit. In an interaction with journalists in Baluwatar in 1st Bhadra 2080 (18th August 2023), Prime Minister Dahal said: “Preparations are being made to urge the construction of cross-border transmission lines at Kerung and Kimathanka with China. We are also ready to talk about building a hydropower project near Kimathanka, increasing investment based on agriculture.”
The project implementation plan agreement has not been reached between Nepal and China so far. During the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government, China showed interest in signing a project implementation plan agreement between the two countries, but Nepal backed away from it. Under the BRI project, Nepal initially sent a list of 35 projects. It was narrowed down to nine projects at China’s insistence. These include the upgradation of the Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu road, construction of the Kimathanka road, road from Dipayal to Chinese border, Tokha-Bidur road (with tunnel), Galchhi-Rasuwagadhi-Kerung 400 KV transmission line, feasibility study of Kerung-Kathmandu railway, 762 KV Tamor Hydro Project, 426 KV Phukot Karnali Hydro Project and Madan Bhandari University. The Phukot Karnali during Prime Minister Dahal’s visit to India, an agreement has been reached to be built by India.
During the then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China in June 2018, BRI implementation was emphasized. At that time, both sides agreed to expedite the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation under BRI to enhance connectivity by including essential components such as ports, roads, railways, aviation, and communication within the overall framework of cross-border Himalayan multi-faceted connectivity. However, after returning from China, all these issues were overshadowed. After Oli, Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress became the Prime Minister, and American activity increased greatly. As a result, the state’s attention was more focused on the MCC than the forward of the BRI project. America’s strategic plan has been advanced by MCC Nepal. Not only if it is not done in time, but also when calculating the expenses including the land compensation that Nepal will bear, it seems that the budget of Nepal will also be spent as much as the money coming from the MCC grant.
Pressure from India and America
Lately, India’s pressure on Nepal seems to be focused on stopping Chinese projects and Chinese investments. In the first phase, the Indian government took control of the hydropower projects in Nepal. During Prime Minister Dahal’s visit to India, it was decided to award the 480 MW Phukot Karnali semi-reservoir project to the Indian government-owned National Hydroelectricity Power Corporation (NHPC). The project was proposed to be built under BRI. Prime Minister Dahal decided to suddenly give the project to India, which was to be developed as a bilateral partnership between Nepal and China.
The Hydropower Investment and Development Company (HIDCL), which is majority owned by the Government of Nepal, wrote a letter to the Board of Investment in the first week of Falgun and informed that they are not interested to building the Tamor Hydropower Project in the existing investment structure. HIDCL backed out of the 762 MW project on the Tamor River in eastern Nepal due to Chinese involvement. HIDCL came to this conclusion after calculating that the electricity of Chinese involvement in the Indian market cannot be sold.
During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal in Asoj 2076 (October 2019), an agreement was reached to build two reservoir projects in partnership. Tamor is one of them. In the first week of Magh 2076 (January 2020), the Investment Board decided to give the project to Power China Construction for a feasibility study. A memorandum of understanding was also signed to start the construction process within two years. The government is preparing to award the project to the Indian company Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN Limited). Sutlej is a joint venture between the Center of India and Himachal Pradesh Government.
The Indian government company Sutlej Hydropower Corporation has been aspiring for hydropower on the Arun River in eastern Nepal, which enters Nepal through Tibet. Sutlej is constructing more than 2,000 megawatt capacity projects on the Arun River. Arun-3 of 900 megawatts, which received construction permission in 2074 (2017), is in the production stage. Sutlej took lower Arun of 679 megawatts in 2078 (2021). In Jesth 2079 (May 2022), it was decided to give 490 MW Arun-4 to Sutlej. The government is also preparing to give the Upper Arun project of 1 thousand 61 MW to the Sutlej.
Chinese investment in Nepal has increased after the blockade imposed by India in 2072 (2015). After that, Chinese investment in the hydropower sector also started to increase. However, in recent times, the government of Nepal has started backing away from the project that was said to be a joint venture with China. It is not difficult to understand that the reason for this is India’s pressure.
In 2016, during the then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China, an agreement was reached to establish an international transmission line. In the meeting of the Nepal-China Joint Energy Related Technical Committee held in Poush 2076 (December 2019), it was decided to carry out a detailed study for the construction of transmission lines in their respective territories. The authority and the State Grid Corporation of China have agreed to conduct a joint detailed technical study of the project. China has already prepared a 400 KV substation at Jilong, 79 km away from Kerung Pass. There is a plan to connect this line by taking it to the same substation. For this, China will have to build a transmission line from the Kerung border to Jilong.
A 400 KV substation is also being built at Ratmate under the MCC project in Nepal. The transmission line to China will be connected from the same substation. However, it seems that the idea of the Nepal government to connect the transmission line with China to the substation built with American investment under MCC is wrong. Just like if India says that it will not buy the electricity produced by others except its own investment, the same way, if America says that it will not connect Arun’s transmission line to the sub-station established with my subsidy, Nepal will not have the ability to argue.
India’s pressure is to make Nepal dependent on India and not on China. Recently, it seems that some Chinese goods sold in Nepal are being replaced by Indian products. On the other hand, India’s desire is to prevent Nepal from joining the BRI. India is also active in negative publicity about Chinese loans, calling them a debt trap, and delaying Chinese projects in Nepal. America has a different way of thinking than India.
As much as possible, America wants Nepal not to go side with China. The United States has seen the importance of Nepal’s role in encircling China in the language of geopolitics to trouble China. Therefore, the US saw China’s hand in the matter of the delay in approval of the MCC project by the Parliament. American officials came to the level that Nepal did not advance the MCC project because of open China. America’s desire is clear from the fact that after the Dalai Lama left China and took refuge in India in 1959, he used Nepalese territory to launch the Khampa operation against China. The Khampa operation, which was carried out with the idea of encircling China, failed. One of the reasons behind this is the warming of US-China relations since 1972.
During the Khampa operation, the US conducted Khulam Khula Guerrilla training in the northern region of Nepal. American modern weapons were given to the Khampas in the northern region. They used to enter the border of China from Nepal and engage in open crimes. That is why America understands the importance of the northern region of Nepal. On the other hand, America wants to use the radium mine in Mustang. The United States is currently weaving various looms for the use of the mine. The United States has also mobilized the American army in cooperation with the Nepalese army to protect the area with radium. From time to time, the United States has been secretly taking the radium from the mine to the United States for testing.
America’s desire is not only strategic, their eyes are also on precious minerals in Nepal. Apart from this, the most focused area of America is ‘American society building’. Programs conducted by the American government such as the American Youth Congress, Peace Corps, various kinds of scholarships, and DV programs are gradually building an American society in Nepal. Their structure extends to the lower levels. Those who join this society criticize China as much as possible. They help to develop positive thinking about America in society. Therefore, when there is opposition to the American project, it seems that the group advocating the American project by gathering on social media is increasing.
Americans have a stronger network in Nepal than in India. Nepalese society seems to have more negative than positive feelings towards India. America has the opposite situation than India. Therefore, America wants to develop Nepal as a center of strategic programs such as IPS, MCC, SPP, etc. The desire of this center is to create public opinion against China. Americans are doing that now. People from all levels of society seem to be used for that. Overall, America’s desire is to develop Nepal as a strategic ground against China.
The aerial survey of the Kerung-Kathmandu railway line using drones got stuck after reaching the Ministry of Forests and its subordinate National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department. The work on the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of this inland railway started last November with the help of China. Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation have already given consent for that. However, the permission was not received even when requesting permission from the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department. With Nepal’s inclusion of the Kerung-Kathmandu railway line in China’s BRI, it became the main agenda of talks when Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Nepal in 2019. It seems that the activism of the members of the American Society in Nepal has worked behind even stopping the aerial survey. This is an example of how the U.S. and India are affecting China’s projects in Nepal.
Dahal is active in planning to trap China
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is now showing drama like he is away from America. Specially, the day before the launch of the MCC, Prime Minister Dahal said he was unknown of the legal status of the explanatory notes made when the MCC was approved by Parliament. The MCC inauguration program was also limited to formalities at the Ministry of Finance.
There was no public comment about Prime Minister Dahal’s behavior towards MCC, which Nepal has declared as a project of national pride. Even the leaders of the Nepali Congress, a party of the ruling coalition, who works in favor of America, remained silent on this issue. So far Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma have not said that the government tried to overshadow the issue of MCC.
The CPN Biplav group, a component of the Samajwadi Morcha formed under the activeness of Prime Minister Dahal, held a one-day program against the MCC. General Secretary Biplav said at a program held in Pokhara: “Prime Minister Dahal will fight America till the end. After him, the country becomes Ukraine.” All sides are trying to show that Prime Minister Dahal is now standing against America. While the MCC was approved by Parliament only because of Dahal.
Dahal’s relationship with the Americans has become stronger after being appointed as the Prime Minister. To help the US, Dahal did not stop Tibetan refugees in Nepal from holding events in public places. The government has already sent the draft of the SPP agreement to the American authorities. Not only that, the ladder used by Dahal to win America’s heart, i.e. the Nepali Congress has unity on Dahal’s side. All these incidents make it clear that Prime Minister Dahal is staging a grand play of the Chinese card.
1_ Prime Minister Dahal has entrusted the field of hydropower to India. Not only have they been taken away from the Chinese company, but also the projects proposed in BRI have been taken over by India. It seems that Prime Minister Dahal has been active in developing Nepal as India’s sphere of influence.
2_ Prime Minister Dahal is eager to visit China. In order to create an easy environment during his visit to China, Prime Minister Dahal has now started pretending to be away from America. The Americans are thinking of failing the Chinese project in Nepal. The idea of Americans is to sign a new project with China and make it fail by showing that the distance between America and Prime Minister Dahal has increased.
3_ If the Prime Minister increases the distance with America, the Nepali Congress will withdraw from the current government. Prime Minister Dahal does not imagine that the government would collapse. However, in recent days, PM Dahal has started to publicly warn that he will protest if the government is overthrown. His latest statement also seems to have come to show that the US is trying to topple the government because I am moving towards China. This is just crocodile tears shed to trouble China.
4_ The work of the BRI project in Nepal has not been able to move forward even with the implementation of MCC. On the contrary, Nepal has refuted the Chinese argument that Pokhara International Airport belongs to the BRI project. Now, in preparation for Prime Minister Dahal’s visit to China, the same BRI project is being moved forward. Until the completed project can be accepted as BRI’s, trying to move forward with a new project is another Chinese card to use.
5_ Regarding the extradition treaty that is supposed to be concluded during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal, the Chinese side should try to finalize it during the visit of Prime Minister Dahal. The problem remains until China can clarify to Dahal that the project can be discussed only after that. Dahal can make this treaty only if he is not in favor of the US. In order to protect the independent Tibetans in Nepal, the US has been blocking the extradition treaty with China. Among the 20 agreements reached during President Xi’s visit to Nepal, item number 3: “Do Mutual legal assistance between Nepal and the People’s Republic of China in criminal matters” is now outdated.
6_ The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement regarding the absence of the Chuche (updated) map of Nepal in the map released by China recently. Those working for American interests in Nepal united against China. Their voice was institutionalized by the statement of foreign affairs. However, the Prime Minister could not say that he would discuss this issue during my upcoming visit to China.
If he had been able to say that, it would not helped the stronghold of anti-China in Nepal. Therefore, Prime Minister Dahal’s behavior has made it clear that he thinks that the Chinese card can be used successfully.
Prime Minister Dahal appears to be seriously involved in the American plan against China. It seems imperative that China pay serious attention to this. Otherwise, the plan to trap China in the American trap will succeed.