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Nepal's Maoists Look to China

10:54 AM, May 5, 2008 • By JENNIFER CHOU
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With the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) poised to take the helm in Kathmandu, Sino-Nepalese relations are expected to improve greatly. On April 25, a high-level Chinese delegation visiting the country announced that Beijing plans to link Tibet with Nepal by extending a railway line from Lhasa to Khasha on the China-Nepal border in five years.

An April 28 feature piece in Global Times, a newspaper run by People's Daily, characterizes the CPN-M's electoral victory as "a historic sea change" that has Washington's eyes peeled for signs that Nepal's new government may tilt toward Beijing. Not without glee, the article states that the sea change was brought about by a victory of those once regarded by India as "rebels" and long-referred to by the United States as a "terrorist organization."

Republished by numerous China-based websites and blogs, the article notes that New Delhi had for years sided with Nepal's royal family and had put behind bars CPN-M guerrilla leaders operating in India. Following its electoral victory, however, India announced its willingness to "unconditionally cooperate" with the CPN-M. This change in policy is attributed by the article to New Delhi's desire both to prevent Kathmandu from cozying up to Beijing and to dissuade the CPN-M from supporting Maoist insurgents in India.

A post-9/11 United States, the Global Times piece continues, found the CPN-M particularly "heinous" for its communist orientation and guerrilla activities. According to the article, this is why Washington provided the Nepalese government with tens of millions of dollars in military aid to combat the Maoists and why, even after King Gyanendra claimed absolute power for himself in 2005, the United States urged the seven-party alliance not to cooperate with the Maoists.

The article concludes with CPN-M leader Prachanda's observation that his government has much to learn from China's experience in socialist construction. Conspicuously absent from the text is any reference to China's own relationship with the Nepalese royal family, including Beijing's sales of rifles and grenades to King Gyanendra's government while it was at the same time exporting arms to the Maoists.

Missing also from the article is any mention of the fact that although King Gyanendra's 2005 dismissal of the country's elected parliament was condemned by India, Britain, and the United States, China refused to do so, characterizing it as "an internal matter for Nepal." Indeed, some believe that King Gyanendra's assumption of total power, which was followed by a trip by the King to China less than three months later, had Beijing's blessing.

The victorious CPN-M has announced that Nepal's new government will not seek to play either the India card or the China card. Perhaps an even more germane question is: how will Beijing play the Nepal card?