DURGA LAL KC/KANTIPUR
China was always going to change the present relationship with Nepal, regardless of who was in government. The Chinese say they have proposed a new treaty to 'make the relationship between the two countries timely and strong'. The Chinese embassy spokesperson has said that the agreement is directed only towards Nepal and not any other country.
All Chinese visits to Nepal in the last six months have focussed on studying and observing the situation here. High level Chinese officials were at the UML and MJF party conventions. The vice-commander of the Chinese army and his team and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also made a trip to Nepal. Jiechi's brother and head of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, Pro Yang Jemin followed him here, heading a non-governmental team.
What all these visits have in common is the focus on controlling 'free Tibet' activities on Nepali soil. In the words of a Chinese diplomat: "The issue of Tibet might not be that important to you in Nepal. But for us it has become a top priority matter of national security." The Chinese believe that Nepal is the conduit for many free-Tibet activities because access to Tibet is easier through Nepal than India. In the present context, when China is challenging the US as a global power, Tibet has become China's Achilles heel.
For Nepal's Maoist government Tibet has become an opportunity to win China's trust and cosy up to the northern neighbour. However, it is unlikely that the Maoist government will become an ally as strong as the monarchy was to Beijing in the past.