Among the chattering diplomatic community of New Delhi, Nepalese Ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay is certainly one of the exceptions. A suave, but no nonsense personality, he is also known for his economy of words. So when he asks India "not to press Nepal to the wall" as it seeks help from other countries, including China, the strategic threat to New Delhi looks close at hand.
India has all along maintained that non-supply of essential commodities to Nepal is entirely due to agitation by the Madhesis and the janajatis (people of tribal origin) on the Nepalese side of the border. Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel however confirm that at least till the third week of September, they had orders from above to intercept fuel shipments to Nepal. Khadga Prasad Oli, the new Nepalese prime minister, represents the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist - Leninist), which is known for its virulent anti- India approach and, given this changed political scenario, Upadhyay s threat does not look like an empty boast.
Since the time of king Mahendra in the 1960s, Nepal has been using its position as a buffer between India and China but from New Delhi s perspective, the situation has never been so worrisome as it is now. This is because China has greatly increased its presence and influence in Nepal in the last decade, mainly through pecuniary help, financing of infrastructural projects and cultural programmes.
It is even planning to dig a tunnel beneath Mount Everest for extending the Qinghai-Lhasa railway line to Kathmandu. This project is strategically important for China as it is now aiming to penetrate the economies of various South Asian countries. For quite some time now, China has been breathing heavily down on India s neck by its presence in Nepal and Bhutan and its influence on Kathmandu can be gauged from the fact that before the convening of the last Constituent Assembly, leaders of almost all political parties had gone to Beijing for confabulations.
For the present, we may leave aside the Everest tunnel question because its technical feasibility has been questioned even in China. It is undeniable that India is still far ahead of China in matters of investments and building up of projects in Nepal. But it is also true that China is catching up very fast. Beijing will invest