India to Nepal weapons supply to resume after Chinese premier's visit


A Nepalese woman lights prayer candles at the stupa Boudhanath for the Buddha's birthday in Kathmandu.


Paula Bronstein

India's weapons shipments to Nepal are set to resume, following a profligate list of aid projects proposed during the Chinese premier's visit to Kathmandu last week.

Now visiting India, Nepalese home and defence minister BK Gachhedar has formally submitted a list of military hardware to India and conveyed Baburam Bhattarai's government request to resume arms and weapons supplies to Kathmandu, the Hindustan Times reported. Meanwhile, New Delhi has begun the procedures for supplying arms to Kathmandu, with the possible exception of the Lancer counter-insurgency helicopter.

As I wrote yesterday for GlobalPost, India and China are vying for influence in Nepal with soft power, including a "Battle for Buddha." And I stand by the argument that the biggest advantage India has in that battle is its free press -- warts and all. But this post is about the warts.

There's some funky writing in this HT article, folks, so I'm not entirely clear what the author means. But he seems to say that Gachhedar TOLD Indian defence minister AK Antony that Chinese premier Wen Jiabao promised aid to Nepal in exchange for an agreement (perhaps tacit) that Kathmandu would check the flight of Tibetan refugees across its borders. And then he dramatically overemphasizes the sum of money given for policing...

The article reads:

Wen promised $120 million aid to Nepal for police training and border check posts with an eye towards Tibetan refugees. It is understood that Wen asked Nepal to maintain good relations with India but at the same time asked that Tibetan refugees be handed back to Chinese PLA instead of UN humanitarian bodies like UNHCR in Nepal.

That's curious, to say the least. According to other sources including the Associated Press and Nepal's own Republica newspaper, Wen pledged only 10 million yuan (or about $1.5 million) to enhance the capabilities of Nepal's police forces and another 400,000 yuan ($65,000) to strengthen its armed forces. Presumably, the rest of the money was earmarked for projects like the development of international dry ports and cargo terminals, upgrading highways around the Kathmandu Valley, and so on.

Following that statement, the HT writes:

Erstwhile Nepal King Gyanendra had already closed down the Tibetan Bureau office catering to refugees crossing over from Tibet to Kathmandu after he declared emergency in February 1, 2005.

Since then, India has also not supplied lethal weapons to Nepal.

Strictly speaking, these two statements are true. But the juxtaposition is misleading, according to sources in the know in Kathmandu. India DID stop weapons supplies to Nepal after the king declared emergency. But according to folks in Kathmandu its reasons were not related to the closing down of the Tibetan Bureau office. The sanctions were triggered by what HT obliquely refers to as declaring emergency but is normally called a coup d'etat. As always in these cases, the military backed and enforced the coup. Moreover, there was evidence of the army torturing and killing civilians -- a much more obvious and direct reason for ending weapons supplies.

Curiouser and curiouser.