China inroads into Nepal army gives India the jitters
Much more than the recruitment of Nepalese in its Gorkha Rifles, the Indian Army is actually worried about the deft Chinese strategicinroads into Nepal and the possible ‘Maoisation’ of the Himalayan country’s small but relatively professional army. With Nepal engulfed in turmoil once again, following the resignation of Maoist PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ after failing to sack Nepal army chief General Rookmangud Katawal in a power struggle with President Ram Baran Yadav, South Block is closely monitoring the evolving situation in Kathmandu.
Though the official line is that the developments in Nepal are purely its ‘‘internal matter’’, as enunciated by foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee,India obviously does not want its ‘‘interests” to be ‘‘subsumed” by Chinese ones in Kathmandu.
“In the past, China quickly stepped into the vacuum created by India’s hesitation in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and other countries. With Prachanda in power, Nepal was also heading the same way,’’ said a senior officer. India, of course, was caught completely off-balance when Maoists emerged victorious in Nepal’s constituent assembly elections and Prachanda was sworn in as the PM last August. It then belatedly scrambled to engage with the Maoists, even as Prachanda exhibited his pronounced tilt towards China.
Apart from a peace and friendship treaty with China, Prachanda was after Katawal’s head because of the officer’s stout refusal to induct over 19,000 Maoist rebels into the regular Nepal army. Knowing the Maoists cannot be wished away, New Delhi will remain actively engaged with them as well as other players in Kathmandu to ensure there is no fresh confrontation between the Nepal army and Maoists.