Thursday, December 17, 2009

China to train Nepal army

Ajay Banerjee

Just two days after President Pratibha Patil conferred the rank of “Honorary General” on the Chief of Nepal Army General Chhatraman Singh Gurung, India’s move of rolling out red carpet for Nepal has been somewhat upstaged by China’s latest strategic move.

Reports from Kathmandu today said China would train the Nepalese Army and it has also pledged Rs 220 million as military assistance for procuring “non lethal” hardware and logistics to Nepal. This comes even as General Gurung is on eight-day visit to India. He has met the top brass including the Defence Minister AK Antony seeking cooperation. He has also sought for tanks, an airstrip and recruitment of Gurkhas to be conducted by the Indian Army in Nepalese soil.

A Chinese military delegation led by Maj Gen Jia Jialing has met Nepal Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari, after which it has emerged that China and India are now locked in fight over “helping Nepal”. Notably, Indian Intelligence agencies had warned a fortnight ago about the impending meeting and the probability of some “big announcement” coming at the end of this. With its latest move China has managed to build a “relationship” with yet another nation that borders India.

A senior China watcher pointed out that it was Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, which was playing on nerves of two powers and playing a balancing act. For China, it is a major score to further its military policy of surrounding India with what it calls the theory of “string of pearls”.

It already has a long standing partnership with Pakistan, where it is building ports, supplying fighters, tanks, and nuclear-tipped missiles. This had recently forced Antony to term the relationship as “military nexus”.

A few years back China had build a major relationship with Sri Lanka by constructing a brand new sea port at Hambantota facing the India Ocean. In lieu, Chinese Navy ships get re-fuelling facilities at Sri Lanka. It has strategic interests in Myanmar for its gas fields and is helping that nation is building roads and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, what should worry India are the reports from Kathmandu that quoted Adviser to Nepal Defence Minister Subhash Devkota as having that the money (Rs 220 million) from China will be utilised to supply the “non-lethal” military hardware, including logistics and training to the Nepal Army.

It was these worries that had forced India to welcome the Nepal Army Chief and use his old association with India hoping to counter China’s activity in Nepal. General Gurung was chief guest at the passing-out-parade at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun on Saturday. India’s security perspectives and concerns in the region have figured in the discussions, said a senior official.

Tribune News Service

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