DHARAMSALA, September 17 – China has given India yet another worry. This time it is not the frequent reported incursions by Chinese army into Indian territory but a proposed Chinese consulate in the tourists’ paradise Pokhara.
Media reports say that China has asked permission from Nepal to set up a consulate in “critically situated Pokhara, alarming New Delhi.” Indian experts believe that the dragon has been “slowly making the Himalayan kingdom its lair, and its presence in southern Nepal has serious strategic implications for India.”
The Pokhara consulate is said to be a reciprocal gesture to a proposed Nepali consulate in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
The proposal, an article in the Sunday Standard says, is already worrying Indian security agencies. The Pokhara region has been an important theatre for Indian counter-terrorism operations in recent months during which India had significant successes such as the arrest of terrorist bomb-maker Abdul Karim Tunda and Indian Mujahidden co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. Agencies feel that Chinese consolidation would provide protective cover for Pakistani terror groups targeting India.
China has recently geared up its effort to increase its presence in the impoverished Himalayan Kingdom. Confucius institutes, the official vehicles to promote Chinese language and culture are ubiquitous in Nepal. At all district headquarters, there are friendship societies and associations, which are manned by local businessmen with trade links to China.
However, diplomatic sources say China is careful to calibrate its public statements, aware of Indian discomfort at their growing presence. It will be difficult for Nepal to fob off Beijing for too long once a new government is in place after Constituent Assembly elections take place in November —especially since Nepal already has two consulates in Hong Kong and Lhasa.
China’s primary concern in Nepal is to monitor and suppress activities of Tibetan refugees whom Nepal has given refuge but controls with an iron fist. Nepal has vowed to check "anti-China activities" to strengthen friendly ties with China, a major donor for the impoverished nation.
The two countries had even set up a joint mechanism to share intelligence on "anti-China activities" in Nepal by Tibetans whom China calls “splittists” trying to split the motherland.
Under Beijing's influence and lack of stable government in the impoverished nation, rights groups say Tibetans refugees in Nepal are increasingly vulnerable and at risk of arrest and repatriation.