CHENNAI, India, 8 April 2018
Prime Minister of Nepal Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli has rejected the concerns expressed by several well-wishers of Nepal that Nepal joining the One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR) could lead to a death trap. He has lightly dismissed such views stating that Nepal wants to be seen as a land-linked and not as a land-locked nation. Obviously, such a response from the newly-elected Prime Minister to the fears of the concerned people lacks clarity and perhaps reflects confused thinking.
While it is absolutely in order for Nepal to remain as a friendly neighbour with nearby countries like India and China, and maintain honourable relationship with nearby countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, the uppermost concern of Nepal’s newly-elected Prime Minister should be to ensure that its economy would not get into the stranglehold directly or indirectly of any other country.
By its utterances and behaviour, China has not concealed its ardent desire to dominate entire Asia, using its military might and economic muscle power. It unjustifiably and forcibly occupied Tibet and drove out the protesting Tibetans, including the venerable Dalai Lama. Now, China is protesting if any country would officially receive the Dalai Lama, showing its merciless attitude towards him.
Nepal should keep in view how China ran through Tibet with its forces, suppressed the dissension there, and has now gained a firm grip over Tibet. How can one think that the fate of Tibet would not happen to any other vulnerable country sharing borders with China, particularly when its intention to dominate Asia is absolutely clear to any discerning observer in the world?
China’s claim on the South China Sea has already upset several nearby countries such as The Philippines. China’s claim on Senkaku island has created huge friction with Japan. Such territorial ambition of China is now threatening to destabilize the peace in South East Asia and Far East Asia.
In the last several years, China has been gradually and steadily penetrating into the economies of weak neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Maldives by extending liberal loans and making investments and taking control of projects in these regions. These countries already virtually face a situation of debt trap with China.
By extending huge loans to Sri Lanka, China has ensured that Sri Lankan government would be forced to hand over the Hambantota port to China, with the possibility of China using it for military purposes in future, and with the Sri Lankan government being unable to prevent such a possibility . This is an event in the recent past that the Nepal government should not ignore.
Between the year 2013 to 2017, China has extended loans and investments to Pakistan to the level of 61.99 billion USD, which consist of Gwadar port ($793 million) Road and rail ($9784 million), Lahore Metro ($1620 million), Energy ($3,3793 million) and additional loans ($16,000 million). The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor extends road and rail links from China up to Gwadar in Pakistan, passing through several cities including Islamabad and Lahore. Pakistan has handed over Gwadar port to China on a 40-year lease, where there is a strategic port. Considering the investments made by China in Pakistan and the debt extended to it which Pakistan will not be able to repay in future, Pakistan is virtually under debt trap of China. Many critics even think that Pakistan faces the threat of becoming an extended territory of China.
Nepal is a sovereign and independent country and it has to ensure that it would not be dependent beyond a reasonable level upon any country.
It is very well-known, and China has not concealed the fact, that the short-term and long-term objects of the One Belt One Road initiative launched by China is to achieve the twin purposes of strengthening the Chinese economy by getting orders for Chinese companies which presently suffer from huge under-utilization of capacity, and in the process get a stranglehold on the economies and industries of the weak nearby countries, who would be tempted by the extension of investment and debt by China in these countries to support and fund the OBOR project.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden, and working for probity in public life.