Friday, September 14, 2012

Sino-Indian Geopolitics on Tibetan Refugees

"China and India have begun to feel odd at one another's presence in Nepalese socio-political sphere making Tibet, inter alia, an academically imperative issue in research."

Prayer flags in Lumbini, Nepal. UNIDO, APEC, China
and India are caught in a controversy on a mega-project

deal worth US$ 3 billion here at the birthplace of Buddha.
Photo © Safal Ghimire/2012
Nepal is sandwiched not only geographically, but also politically between China and India, the two political powerhouses in South Asia. This is because of: (a) its border with the contested Tibet land and China's fear of western powers using Nepalese land to destabilize China, (b) Nepal's fragile transition to peace and Indian suspicion that China could expand its political and economic influence beyond border via Nepal, and (c) its suitable location for the US and the EU to closely monitor China and India. So, the international interests on Nepal in relation to Sino-India geopolitics are very interesting. As Nepal shares border with China's conflict-ridden Tibet autonomous state, the case of refugee's mobility from Tibet should be looked from geo-political perspective as much as from politico-economic perspective. Among others, India and China are vital forces to keep geo-strategic interest in Nepal also because both are struggling to become global power and both share borders with Nepal.

After the inking on Comprehensive Peace Agreement-2006, Nepal has received increased attention from the international community. An overwhelming number of international, including Indian and Chinese, projects in political, economic and security sectors have begun. But with new world power order in recent years, China is becoming strategically active in South Asian politics unlike before. This has been a nuisance for more liberal western powers who often capitalize the loopholes and conflicts in China.

Besides the mentioned issues, Tibetan people are fleeing Chinese persecution for nearly 40 years. They have sought and been granted asylum in India and Nepal. About 20000 Tibetan refugees currently live in Nepal; on their journey, which can range from several days to months in duration, based on the physical hardships and bureaucratic hassles (Dolma et al., 2006). Further, Tibetan refugee case in Nepal has been severely politicized by western countries.

The recent contest between the western and the Chinese interests over Tibetans' mobility into and via Nepal have transcended Nepalese land from simply being a local to a global issue in terms of refugees' migration. Hence, geopolitical studies especially from the points of view of mobility restrictions/freedom seem academically imperative now. In this context, one of the researches in pipeline by Safal Ghimire tries to look at the implications of Chinese and Indian geopolitics on mobility of Tibetan refugees.

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