Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Spook speak

Hu Shisheng, Director of South Asia Study Centre under the China Institute of Contemporary Relations.

How does China view the peace process and the atmosphere for upcoming constituent assembly elections in Nepal?
The objective of our government's Nepal policy is to ensure the prosperity, stability and integrity of Nepal. We would like to support any force that can make Nepal more stable and developed. The Chinese government strongly supports the current peace process. We would like to see that the upcoming constituent assembly election is held on time and that the future government is able to manage the entire situation smoothly.

The Tarai situation is seen as a major challenge for the election. What do you think is the Chinese government's view on the issue?
We know that the situation in the Tarai is not good. There may be some elements who want to take further advantage of the current fragile government for their own political benefits, like the Maoists did.

What elements do you mean?
According to some Nepali scholars and intellectuals, the porous border means there may be some foreign elements with ulterior motives involved in causing the volatile situation. Some have even alleged that US or Indian intelligence agencies have played some role behind the scenes. There was an article in the mass media some months ago which alleged that the Indian intelligence agency the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had played some role in this. It may not be the government's own work, but some local elements, for various reasons, may have played some games with various local political or religious groups in the Tarai.

But can you really make these kind of assumptions based purely on media allegations?
If the reports are true, then the Chinese government will be very much concerned.

Is it concerned already?
Our ambassador in Nepal has already told the Nepali government that China will strongly support Nepal's efforts to maintain its integrity. We would be against any activity aimed at disintegrating Nepal in a covert or open way. We are very clear on our position. But while developing our relations with Nepal, we also tend to respect and be sensitive about India's concerns. We would do our very best to avoid giving an impression to India that China would use Nepal to harm Indian interest, as we know that Nepal is more influenced by Indian policies than by China.

But many believe that the tensions between China and India would affect Nepal as well.
Of course, because Nepal is located between these two powers. You must make a balance between them. Any improvement in the bilateral relations between China and India will also benefit the development and stability of Nepal.

China is also said to be quite uncomfortable with the US role in Nepal.
Our attitude has been quite negative towards the US presence in Nepal. We have noticed that the Americans want to play some role in the current situation in Nepal. Ever since 1990 and especially after the king's direct rule, their role has been quite ambiguous. They want to prevent the Maoists from coming to power. Even after the Indian government tried to encourage the Maoists to join mainstream politics, the US played a very negative role in this regard.

S Chandrashekharan, former senior RAW official who was with the Indian mission in Kathmandu until the early 80s.

There have been allegations that the Indian intelligence Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is active in the Tarai.
Is there an allegation that the RAW is providing the groups with arms? They wouldn't need it, as they can buy arms anywhere, from the north and Bihar. The Indian government is not involved in this matter. What the Indian government is not willing to do is hand over the insurgent leaders to Kathmandu, as the Nepal government wants. So long as they abide by the local laws, they can stay in India and hold meetings. But the Indian government also wants elections to take place in the Tarai, therefore supporting the armed groups would be counterproductive to its own objective.

But they appear to be operating from Indian soil and the Indian government does not seem to mind that.
There are a lot of people who have sympathies for what is happening there (in the Tarai). In this situation, if you arrest someone in India, say Jwala Singh, it's not going to work (laughs). You have to see the situation in India too. After the Lahan incident nothing was done (by the Nepali government), so this was a problem. The mindset of the politicians in Kathmandu has to change.

There are also allegations that there is overlapping between different Indian agencies, for example between the Indian foreign ministry and RAW while dealing with issues across the border.
Actually, RAW has nothing to do with that, this side of the border. It is the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which is handling…..talking and all.

Handling what?
The IB is responsible for law and order situations like this, people coming from one side to the other. But it has no hand in the Tarai unrest.

Why are we hearing blame games between the different agencies?
I am sure if you ask the RAW people, they will say it's not our job, it's the IB's. The IB in turn would say that the RAW is responsible for the other side (of the border). This is typical of the many agencies in India and it has been happening for many years. But it has nothing specifically to do with Nepal. I understand in border areas it sometimes overlaps.

What about the US role?
They are also interested, we are interested and so are the Chinese, as these are the major foreign powers in Nepal. China will also be watching what India does in the Tarai. Ask the Peasants and Workers Party in Bhaktapur, the Chinese government is in touch with them.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)