China’s expansionist policies have become a huge concern in many countries. While the Chinese regime is trying to gain control over other countries using various methods like debt trap and its Belt and Road Initiative, the country is trying to gain territories in its neighbouring countries, like its aggression seen in Ladakh in India. China’s other southern neighbour Nepal is also seeing a similar situation, leading to regular anti-China protests in the country.
But China has decided to retaliate against Nepal for anti-China sentiments in the Himalayan nation, and as a result, the upcoming Dashain festival is becoming a victim. This is because, China has completely shut down its trading points with Nepal, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, which means Nepalese traders can’t import essential items from China. It is notable that the Dashain festival is the Nepali version of the Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra festival of Hindus, and it is the biggest festival for Nepalese Hindus. Traders do hefty business during the festival, but due to the blockade by China, they don’t have much to sell.
China has been imposing strict restrictions on trade with Nepal for the last two years in the guise of Covid-19, but limited trade was still taking place. But last month, the Chinese government closed the Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi border points completely, putting a complete halt on bilateral trade through the two main trade points. This decision comes as a big setback for Nepalese traders who will be incurring losses worth millions of Nepalese rupees ahead of the Dashain festival.
This will be the third year in a row when the Dashain festival in Nepal will be ruined due to economic blockades by China. In the last two years too, China has closed its borders with Nepal citing the pandemic.
More than 300 Nepal-bound container trucks with goods worth billions of rupees, imported for the upcoming Dashain festival, were stranded at the checkpoints on the northern border when China announced the shutdown of the border trade points. Chinese officials say that the borders have been closed due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Tibet.
But coincidently, the blockade comes after anti-China protests in Nepal over the last few weeks. Nepalese activist groups are protesting against China alleging encroachment of Nepalese territory. In the last week of June, civic group Rashtriya Ekata Abhiyan organised such a protest, after China expanded the wire fence within no-man’s land in Gorkha, and encroached into Nepalese areas on the northern border.
The protestors had marched towards the parliament in Kathmandu demanding action against illegal structures built by China inside Nepal. The activists were chanting anti-China slogans and carrying placards demanding that China withdraw from areas in Nepal.
While China claims the border blockade is for Covid-19, people in Nepal do not believe that. An editorial in Himalayan Times called it a lame excuse, and said that the blockade was an apparent show of displeasure over the handling of anti-China activities in Nepal by the Nepalese government.
Anti-China protests by Nepalese activists are not the only reason China is unhappy with Nepal, another matter is the presence of Tibetan refugees in the country. The refugees also hold anti-China protests from time to time, angering the Chinese govt.
While China has expressed commitment to ensure smooth trade operations, it has not been reflected in reality. During a recent visit to China by Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka, the re-opening of border points was one of the points discussed in the meetings. But soon after the visit, the border points were completely sealed by China.
Being a landlocked country, Nepal is largely dependent on India for the import of goods using Indian ports. However, the country is trying to diversify its import routes, and attempting to increase imports from China through land borders. But that move seems to have backfired, as China has other ideas, and the Communist regime in China has decided to use Nepal’s dependence on Chinese imports it to teach a lesson for anti-China protests.
Now, billions spent by Nepalese traders for imports of goods are stuck as the consignments are stuck at the border. It is notable that while the amount is significant for Nepal, it is nothing for China. The Chinese businesses lose almost nothing by blocking trade with Nepal, as being the largest exporter in the world, China’s export to Nepal is insignificant to the Chinese economy.
Therefore, China has been able to flex its muscle against Nepal, trying to force the government to crack down on activists. This has put Nepal in a tight situation, as it can’t directly defy the Chinese govt.