India, China rivalry over security aid worries lawmakers
KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, Jan 31: Members of the parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC) have expressed serious concern over growing competition between India and China to provide security assistance to Nepal.
Speaking at a meeting of the parliamentary committee held on Tuesday, committee members criticized the government for not giving due consideration to the national interest while accepting assistance meant for the army and police. They also asked the government not to accept support in sensitive areas like security.
"There has been growing competition between India and China to provide security assistance to Nepal in recent days. I wonder whether our government has paid heed to the national interest while accepting such assistance," said Nepali Congress lawmaker on the committee Arjun Prasad Joshi.
Joshi cautioned the government that acceptance of aid in the sensitive area of security may seriously undermine the national interest. "This is a very sensitive issue. The government should be very careful while accepting such assistance," he added.
The concern by lawmakers comes against the backdrop of both India and China pledging huge security assistance to Nepal in recent years. In its biggest-ever extension of military support, China recently pledged $ 7.7 million worth of aid to the Nepal Army, besides pledging assistance for setting up the Armed Police Force Academy. India, likewise, has pledged assistance for building the Nepal Police Academy in Panauti and provided military supplies as requested by Nepal.
Speaking at the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Defense and Home Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, Maoist lawmaker on the committee Pampha Bhusal criticized the government move to accept Indian assistance for the Nepal Police Academy and hire Indian security officials as consultants.
"The prime minister recently announced that we can collect over Rs 6 billion if all government employees donate their salary for one day and seek support from Non-resident Nepalis. We are ready to donate two days´ salary, not just one day´s, to build the police academy," Bhusal said.
Arguing that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had cut short his visit to just four hours from his originally scheduled three-day trip, most lawmakers speaking at the meeting also flayed the government for failing to maintain effective law and order in the country. "Neighboring countries have failed to feel assured about our security situation. This has placed our credibility into question in terms of security," argued UML lawmaker Pradip Gyawali.
Expressing his reservations, Gyawali also sought the government´s clarifications over the proposed Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that reportedly contains a provision allowing India legal professionals to plead on behalf of Indian nationals in Nepali courts, and over the government´s plan to seek Indian assistance for changing the entire setup of the immigration offices.
The SAC had summoned Minister Gachchhadar to brief it about his recent visits to China and India, amid speculation in various quarters that controversial agreements had taken place during the visits. Lawmakers raised the issues of missing pillars along the Indo-Nepal border, alleged encroachments of Nepali territory from the Indian side, hassles and misbehavior meted out by Indian border security personnel, and the extradition and mutual legal assistance treaty with India.
Minister Gachchhadar clarified to the parliamentary panel that they had not inked any agreement with India or China during the visits.
"While China has suggested to us to maintain good relations with India, India on the other hand has suggested we maintain good relations with China. This is great political magnanimity. My visit has helped further strengthen our relations with both countries."
Home Secretary Sushil SJB Rana informed the committee that during a recently held home secretary-level meeting in New Delhi, agreements were reached with India to conduct regular joint inspections of the border pillars, hold meetings between chief district officers concerned and their Indian counterparts on a quarterly basis, and exchange real-time information to curb illegal activities including smuggling of fake Indian currency in bordering areas.
"The meeting took stock of the security situation. Both sides exchanged their concerns and analyzed recent security trends," he said.