Nepal likely to figure prominently in China's foreign policy
HONG KONG, Nov 24: Nepali politicians are not well acquainted with the new leadership in China. Yet, when Xi Jinping was named head of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last week, Nepali politicians, be it from the ruling parties or the opposition, did not wait to send their congratulatory messages to the new Chinese leadership.
The alacrity with which Nepali politicians sent greetings to Xi, who is all set to replace Hu Jintao as China´s new president in March next year, has left Beijing hopeful of more support from Nepal to maintain peace in Tibet.
Beijing-based South Asia experts believe that Xi will thrash out strategies to resolve the Tibet crisis by developing a new relationship with Nepal.
Prof Ma Jiali, executive deputy director at Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS), a government think tank, believes that messages from Kathmandu reflected its ´one China policy´. “The new Chinese leadership must feel encouraged by Kathmandu´s renewed commitment for endorsing whatever policy Beijing formulates on Tibet and Taiwan,” Prof Ma, one of China´s well known South Asia experts, says. “Nepal is strategically important to China because of Tibet. Hence, Xi will do something for Nepal.”
Prof Ma is a member of China-India Track to Dialogue and is also associated with China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank operated under China´s state council. He is hopeful that Xi will made state visits to some important neighboring countries including Nepal soon after taking over as China´s next president. “As he has better understanding of South Asia, Xi will hopefully visit Nepal, too,” he said.
While addressing the eighteenth national congress of the CPC two weeks ago, China´s president Hu Jintao had stated that the new Chinese leadership ought to cement China´s relationship with neighboring countries by ensuring that they benefit from China´s economic prosperity. Soon after Xi emerged as China´s new leader, Yang Houlan, China´s ambassador to Nepal, had made it clear that the Chinese investment in Nepal would grow in the coming years.
Prof Wang Hong-wei of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies says that the new Chinese leadership will give high priority to strengthening its diplomatic relationship with neighboring countries, including Nepal, in accordance with its policy of placing Tibet and Xinjiang at the center of its diplomacy. “The new Chinese leadership will build a strong relationship with Nepal in various sectors, including security,” said Prof Wang. “China´s focus on neighboring and developing countries is part of its larger goal of changing the existing world order.”
Hu Shisheng, Director of Institute of South & Southeast Asian and Oceanic Studies at CICIR, views China´s focus on neighboring countries as an attempt to counterbalance the US influence in Asia. “In the face of China´s rise, world powers´ competition over increasing their influences in Asia could lead to tensions,” said Hu. “Therefore, it is natural that China will focus more on its neighboring countries.”
Beijing is currently feeling the heat created by the increasing US influence in the East and Southeast Asia. In addition, increasing incidents of self-immolations by the supporters of the Dalai Lama have put Beijing on a tight spot.
“In the years to come, China will have to face more challenges from its western regions like Tibet and Xinjiang than any other region,” said Hu. “Therefore, the new leadership will definitely want to build strong relationships with Nepal which shares border with Tibet.”
Hu added, “Given that hundreds of Tibetans flee China through Nepal every year, it is not possible to maintain political stability in Tibet without Nepal´s support. Therefore, Nepal is a key nation to China regarding Tibet.”
While Hu Jintao´s term revolved around Taiwan, Xi´s tenure as China´s leader is expected to have Tibet at the center, which signals that Nepal will figure more prominently in China´s foreign affairs in the days ahead.