China, Nepal mark 52 years of diplomatic ties

By Upendra Gautam (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-26 07:10

China and Nepal have enjoyed close ties for more than 2,000 years. The shared mountains and rivers are manifestations of the perennial natural links between the two ancient countries. The intimate bilateral cultural and spiritual links have continuously been nurtured and promoted by Buddhism, which itself was expounded by Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha (about 563-483 BC), who was born in Lumbini, a township in the Rupendehi district of modern day Nepal.

Master Buddhabhadra (AD 359-429), Princess Bhrikuti (AD 617-649) and Architect Arniko (1245-1306) from Nepal; and Wenshu (Manjushri), Master Monks Fa Xian (AD 360-430) and Xuan Zang (AD 602-664), and Tibetan King Srontsan Gampo (AD 617-649) from China all have contributed to the dissemination of Buddhism in China.

Nepali people, for example, the Kirats and the Newars from the Arun and Kathmandu Valleys, together with the Lamas and Sherpas from the high mountain environs, have been conducting social and trade interactions with Tibet for centuries via the world's highest mountain passes located along the more than 1,400-km-long China-Nepal border.

Notwithstanding their ancient ties, the two countries took some years to duly modernize their state-to-state relationship. And while planning and conducting their international affairs independently, both faced foreign interference.

On August 1, 1955, the two signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. Probably reflecting on the situation at that time, on September 30, 1950, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai said in his report: "China shall never tolerate any foreign invasion nor shall it watch it taking place in any neighboring country with folded arms."

On October 2, 1961, Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Chen Yi during a visit to Kathmandu echoed Zhou when he said: "China will not tolerate any aggression against Nepal by any country."

Forty-six years later, Zheng Xianglin, the new Chinese ambassador to Nepal, specifically reconfirmed the intergenerational continuity in China's anti-foreign invasion and interference policy towards Nepal in his exclusive interview with a national weekly (Nepal, June 17, 2007). What serious observers discerned from Zheng's interview was that there was an expansionist geopolitical nexus between the activities of splitist Tibetan forces, use of Nepali territory and China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It was in this context that Zheng asserted China's long-standing Nepal policy.

In the competitive 21st century world environment, foreign invasion and interference has acquired a political-commercial-information interface with the intricacy of smart and soft industrial diplomacy. The key operational objective of a foreign invasion and interference is first to dislocate the national institutions and its unifying indigenous forces and then thoroughly destabilize the political processes to control or impair the target country's national decision-making capability. In the invasion and interference process, the secondary power at the regional level lacking self-confidence in conducting an independent, transparent foreign and defense policy has always been prone to goad the powers pursuing smart and soft industrial diplomacy.

As a consequence, Nepal needs China's proactive cooperation for putting the modern instruments in place to effectively combat foreign invasion and interference. With the passing of time and lessons learned, it is commendable that leaderships in both countries have increasingly started to realize that Sino-Nepali ties require a more creative and innovative futuristic approach than a mere qualitative exposition of historical and geographic ties.

Perhaps fully aware of the imbalance in the existing overall bilateral relation and its 21st century requirements, then Chinese President Jiang Zemin enunciated a good neighborly partnership (GNP) framework for bilateral ties when he visited Nepal in December 1996. It is significant that Jiang's enunciation of the GNP framework was made at a time China was planning a West China Development Strategy (WCDS) covering 12 territorial units of the country including the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Sichuan Province.

The WCDS's positive geopolitical and socio-economic impacts on the greater Trans-Himalayan region including Nepal, to say the least, were far-reaching.

On July 1, 2006 - the day the Chinese national railway was successfully extended to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital and roof of the world - the Trans-Himalayan region felt such an impact. Under the WCDS the Chinese government in 2006 alone invested $20.4 billion in key transport, communication and energy projects.

Describing the importance of the TAR in the context of the total scheme of national development in general and the WCDS in particular, President Hu Jintao, who was then vice-president, on July 19, 2001, said: "Tibet is in the southwestern frontier of the motherland, with a vast stretch of land and a most important strategic position. The development, stability and security of Tibet have a direct bearing on the fundamental interests of people of all ethnic groups in Tibet as well as ethnic solidarity, national unity and state security. It is the common aspiration and mission of people of all ethnic groups in China, the Tibetan people included, to build on the prosperity and progress and maintain stability and solidarity in Tibet."

As a matter of fact the WCDS's forward linkages with Nepal suitably constitute the foundation for China-Nepal socioeconomic ties in the 21st century. It was against the backdrop of such foundation work, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala signed six cooperative agreements, which included the second road link between the two countries when the former visited Nepal in May 2001.

But the condemnable massacre of the entire family of Nepal's King Birendra in June 2001 and the intensification of foreign interference in Nepal's internal affairs demonstrated the critical need of a reassertion of China's anti-foreign invasion and interference policy that unflinchingly and resolutely supports Nepal's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

It is noteworthy that Nepali Prime Minister Koirala even at the personal level feels honestly committed to a one-China policy. During his upcoming visit to China, leaderships in both countries look set to steer Sino-Nepali relation toward new heights. Their bilateral effort is understood to have received unprecedented support through China's multilateral role in Nepal's peace process under UN Security Council Resolution of 1740 (January 23, 2007) whereby the UN reaffirms Nepal's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

Predictably Sino-Nepali relation in the 21st century will be trailblazing like the 2008 Olympic Torch relay that will not only enlighten the global village on its way but also rejuvenate civilizations on either side of the great Himalayas.

The author is the general secretary of the China Study Center, Nepal

(China Daily 07/26/2007 page11)

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