BY MIAN ABRAR—
Once called the Queen of South Asia, Nepal today reflects a dismal picture of political turmoil, volatile environment and bad governance. The country, also considered the Geneva of South Asia, which used to be a super place for international and regional summit meetings and backchannel diplomacy, is no more a safe place and anybody can be targeted by Indian sleuths who roam freely and kill at will with no accountability.
Nepal, over the years, has been a big attraction for tourists from across the world. Possessing eight of the ten highest mountain peaks in the world, Nepal is a hotspot for mountaineers, rock climbers and people seeking adventure. The Hindu and Buddhist heritage of Nepal and its cool weather are also strong attractions.
The world heritage site Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, is located in the south of the west region of Nepal (which despite the name is located in the centre of the country) and there are other important religious pilgrimage sites throughout the country. The tourist industry is seen as a way to alleviate poverty and achieve greater social equity in the country. Tourism brings $471m a year to Nepal.
However, Nepal’s freedom and sovereignty are fast being threatened by India, which borders Nepal in the south, east and west. Nepal – being a landlocked country – is at the mercy of New Delhi, which is gradually stripping the state into pieces.
India, whose expansionist designs are nothing new for the world, has been quietly suffocating the state of Nepal due to India’s military might, its huge borders in the plains and its mafia groups who play a key role in strangulating Nepal.
India forcibly seized Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 and annexed Sikkim in 1975. Before this invasion, India had also forcibly annexed the princely states of Junagadh, Hyderabad Dakan and Bhopal. But it seems India’s appetite for occupation is not over yet. Nepal is perhaps the next Indian focus.
A visit to Kathmandu has revealed to me the bitter truth about Nepal. The tourist country has suffered heavily since a massacre at the Royal Palace in 2001 in which the entire royal family was murdered under mysterious circumstances. Nepal went through a civil war from 1996 to 2006. Since the elections in year 2008, Nepal has sent nine prime ministers packing, which reflects political instability in the country. Nepal’s economy, tourism and governance have badly ached at the hands of increasing Indian meddling into Nepal’s internal affairs.
Critics blame Indian arm-twisting for the passage of the constitution of Nepal which has badly affected its sovereignty. From military to politics, from economy to trade and from developers to investors – all the who’s who in Nepal have Indian connections.
India is also planning to extend its extradition treaty with Nepal to help include third country nationals also. This agreement would help cement the Indian hold on Nepal. China also wants to sign this deal
Once could understand the Indian influence by the fact that the ruling coalition on 30 April moved an impeached motion against the first-ever woman chief justice of Nepal, Justice Sushila Karki, with the Legislature-Parliament Secretariat of Nepal. Nepalese media reported that Justice Karki was being punished for the court’s dismissal of Nepalese Police Chief Jaya Bahadur Chand. The same day, a deputy prime minister of Nepal also stepped down, reflecting another possible change of executive.
When Indian policy comes to dealing with Nepal, it is said usually the sleuths prevail over the diplomats. Statistics reflect that the increasing Indian meddling in Nepalese affairs was turning the country into a total mess. Development works have been put on the backburner and political chaos is the order of the day.
Lack of decision-making and rampant corruption has led to a significant dip in tourism revenues too. Statistics show that while 803,092 tourists visited Nepal in year 2012, the number decreased to 798,000 in year 2013.
Kathmandu, once a mountainous attraction for the world, today reflects as a garbage dump of the region. If you visit Kathmandu today, the first thing you observe would be heavy pollution, dilapidated roads and garbage heaps everywhere.
But the increasing Indian meddling has added a new harm to Nepal’s diplomacy. India is using Nepalese territory for leveling its scores with its opponents. Rampant abductions of foreigners from Nepalese territory by Indian intelligence suggests that Nepal is no more a safe tourist resort and anybody could be abducted or killed by Indian sleuths at will.
Former Indian inspector-general of police, SM Mushrif, has claimed in his book that Ajmal Kasab was arrested before 2006 from Kathmandu by the Indian agency RAW with the help of Nepalese forces.
In his explosive book called ‘Who killed Karkare?’ Mushrif said there were six individuals involved in the CST-Cama-Rangbhavan operation.
Mushrif claims that Ajmal Kasab, the only alleged Mumbai attack culprit captured alive, was already in police custody, and there is no evidence linking him to the attack.
Anita Uddaiya, a witness who not only saw the attackers land at Badhwar Park but actually spoke to them, confirmed there were six individuals, and that Kasab was not one of them. Uddaiya was ultimately dropped as a prosecution witness and had a police case filed against her when she refused to change her story; yet she was able to identify the bodies of the six in JJ Hospital, suggesting that she was a reliable witness.
The book further claims that reports as well as a transcript of police communications established that the two gunmen in a vehicle intercepted by the police at Girgaum Chowpathy were both killed, so Kasab could not have been one of them. The much-publicised photographs of Kasab at the station could have been taken before or even after the incident, if he was in the custody of the IB, said Mushrif.
Fast forward to 2017, Indian RAW abducted a retired Pakistani army officer, Lt Col (R) Mohammad Habib Zahir, from Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. Investigations have revealed that the trail of Habib’s abductors leads towards Indian intelligence agencies who whisked away the Pakistani national into India from the porous border in Rupandehi district.
Since the mysterious disappearance of Habib Zahir has become a major human rights issue, I visited Nepal to investigate the abduction which led to the trail of Zahir’s disappearance who went missing after arriving Nepal on 6 April.
Visits to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and Lumbini from where Habib Zahir was abducted, have led to startling revelations which suggest that the last signals from Zahir’s cellular phone were received at the tower beside Maya Devi Temple, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, who was a messenger of peace and brotherhood.
It is a tragic fact that the birthplace of Buddha was used to abduct a Pakistani national perhaps to jolt Pakistan’s decades-old deep rooted friendly relations with Nepal.
Nepalese officials remain tight lipped over the ongoing investigations to trace the whereabouts of the missing Pakistan national who had been invited for a job interview in Lumbini, in Southern part of Nepal, which borders Indian Province of Uttar Pardesh.
Despite repeated requests with the officials of Nepal, no official was available for on the record comments.
Nepal terms the mysterious disappearance of Habib Zahir as a classic case of entrapment and abduction by sleuths of the neighbouring India whose government literally treats Nepal as its periphery.
Officials say that Habib Zahir was no more in Nepalese territory and he had been abducted by intelligence agencies of India. Gautama Buddha Airport falls in Bhairahawa municipality of Rupandehi district where Zahir was seen last time.
The Nepalese investigators believe that Indian sleuths have abducted Lt Col (R) Habib Zahir but due to Indian influence, they can’t do anything. Nepalese investigators also failed to share any investigation with Pakistan into the targeting of another official of Pakistan’s embassy in the heart of Kathmandu in year 2011.
Asif Mehboob, a young Pakistani who worked at the consular affairs section of Pakistan embassy in Nepal’s capital, was targeted around 100 yards away from the embassy gate, in a daylight attack in year 2011.
The attackers pumped in six bullets into Asif’s body who fortunately survived the attack. Pakistan is yet to receive any information about the attackers.
Nepalese officials say that India is using Terai armed groups linked to the underworld as proxies to suffocate Nepal. The recent economic blockade of Nepal, which continued for six long months, was also instrumental in suffocating the Nepalese government which had refused to alter its constitution according the dictates of India. But it finally had to submit to Indian pressure. The Terai groups were instrumental in the economic blockade of Nepal. These groups also play a key role in polls manipulation in Nepal.
But why does India want to suffocate Nepal? Nepal has China in the north and India in the south, east and west. The increasing Chinese influence in Nepal is a major source of concern for New Delhi and hence Kathmandu is the new battleground of the India against China.
India is using Terai terrorist groups to help maintain its hold and contain growing Chinese influence in Nepal. India wants to create a buffer between China and India through the Terai groups. India also wants a major demographic change in Nepal’s western parts by moving its nationals into Nepalese bordering regions. The poor Indians happily are moving in due to extreme poverty on Indian side while Nepal is a rich tourist destination and smuggling from India makes this place favourite hotspot for Indians.
India is also planning to extend its extradition treaty with Nepal to help include third country nationals also. This agreement would help cement the Indian hold on Nepal. China also wants to sign this deal. Since India-China rivalry is a major concern for Nepal’s government, It is understandably reluctant to sign the deal.
It is therefore high time for Pakistan to realign its policy towards Nepal according to the regional changes as Nepal is a valuable neighbour. Moreover, the increasing influence of Indian sleuths is making Nepal a dangerous destination for Pakistani nationals.
(The writer heads Pakistan Today’s Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. This article was originally published in the Pakistan Today on May 7, 2017.)