Dec 4, 2012

India - 'Chinese activities in Nepal' raise India's hackles

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Claiming that Chinese activities in the southern part of Nepal have surged, India has, in a rare public statement, expressed its concern on the issue.

Addressing a press meet after a crucial border meeting with the Nepali delegation in New Delhi yesterday, the head of the Indian team, Pranay Sahay, who is the director general of Armed Border Force Sashastra Seema Bal, voiced such concerns.

This is the first time a top Indian official made such a public statement on the alleged Chinese influence in Nepal.

"Yes, we are concerned. We have already shared this information as a leading agency in this regard," said Sahay, answering a query of an Indian journalist whether India was concerned with the alleged increasing number of Chinese study centres in southern Nepal.

"This [information on Chinese activities] has reached all appropriate mechanisms. Also, a mechanism has been worked out at a higher level to implement this," he added.

Sahay, however, did not elaborate why the alleged Chinese activities were worrisome for India. He claimed that this particular issue was not raised during yesterday's talks with the Nepali team. Nepali officials confirmed that the issue did not emerge.

The talks, however, saw the discussion on a string of border related issues, including greater cooperation in combating terrorism, arms smuggling, insurgency, smuggling of fake currency and human trafficking.
"The talks were fruitful. We agreed to further enhance our cooperation and coordination in border related thorny issues," said Koshraj Onta, leader of the Nepali team and chief of the Armed Police Force.

Meanwhile, in his solo press meet after the talks, border force head Sahay commended Nepali security personnel on a "fairly high seizure and recovery of fake Indian currency in comparison to the previous years".

Asked about the harassment Nepalis are facing at the hands of the border force personnel, Sahay said that he had considered the issue "very seriously" and had even taken stern action against the perpetrators.

Border pillar data differ In the meeting, both the sides put forward their own claims about the number of border pillars. According to a source privy to the meeting, the Indian side put the figure at 6,800 plus while the Nepali side rebutted with a 5,000 plus figure. Both the sides, however, have agreed to sort out the problem after conducting a joint study on the ground.

'Indian insurgents in Nepal'

Sahay claimed the possibility of insurgents active in north-eastern Indian states residing in Nepal. "In the past, we even brought some Northeast militants to India from Nepal," he said.

Rise in border force strength

India has already moved ahead with its plan to increase the number of border force personnel stationed along the border with Nepal. "Within a few years, this number will go up to 35,000 from the current 30,000," he said. This means the battalion number will rise to more than 35 from the current 29.
The plan to construct 89 new border outposts is also under way.

"Till now, 25 have been constructed. The whole process will complete by 2015," said Sahay.

Next meeting in 2013

Both the sides have agreed to hold the next meeting in Nepal next year. However, the specific date and venue will be decided later. Yesterday's meeting is the first of its kind at the level of the chief of border guarding forces of the two immediate neighbours. Though core talks wrapped up yesterday, other crucial meetings will continue today and tomorrow.

Manesh Acharya

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