Kathmandu’s The Kingmaker in the Donglang Drama

Nepal is the fifth, but most pivotal, actor affecting the dynamics of the ongoing Donglang Drama that the US helped create between China, India, and Bhutan, and Kathmandu’s unseen hand could determine the future geopolitics of South Asia.

The Bhutanese Border Imbroglio

China and India have been engaged in a tense standoff over the past week dangerously reminiscent of the tensions which originally sparked their brief 1962 war. The bone of contention is a disputed plateau between China and Bhutan, called Donglang by Beijing and Doklam by Thimphu, near the crossroads of their trilateral border junction with India (or more precisely, Sikkim). This territory was originally delineated as Chinese territory per an 1890 treaty that the Qing Empire struck with the UK over Beijing’s border with Sikkim, which had just become a new British protectorate at the time. The boundary issue was presumed to have been settled ever since then, but it was strategically instrumentalized as a geopolitical problem following the Chinese Revolution and the subsequent reincorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic.

Bolstered by Indian and American backing, Bhutan claimed that it had never formally agreed to its borders with Tibet, which had come under the official control of Communist China, so the boundary issue was actually unresolved, according to Thimphu. Nevertheless, Beijing still exercised sovereignty over the narrow Chumbi Valley and adjacent Donglang Plateau, only the latter of which falls under the realm of supposedly being “disputed” and is therefore officially (key word) at the center of the latest drama. China doesn’t recognize that any problem exists, however, relying on the 1890 Sino-British Treaty as proof of this, and thus naturally proceeded to construct a road across the Donglang Plateau to increase accessibility to the Chumbi Valley. Bhutan apparently took issue with this and requested that its Indian ally militarily back the tiny kingdom up in asserting its claims.

As a brief backgrounder, Bhutan had previously been an Indian protectorate for decades owing to the de-jure state of suzerainty that New Delhi exercised over Thimphu in bearing responsibility for its military and foreign policies. That state of affairs was finally changed in the 2000s when Bhutan revised its official relations with India in order to regain its rightful sovereignty over these two key spheres, but the special relationship between the two states has nevertheless endured and forms the reason why Thimphu requested New Delhi’s support in the latest manufactured crisis with Beijing. The timing of this whole episode is very suspect, too, because India dispatched its troops to Bhutan and even staged an incursion into Chinese territory during Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the US to meet with President Trump, which raises questions about the level of coordination between the US and India.

An American Dream Come True

While one could speculate that it was actually China which conspiratorially timed events to proceed along this specific trajectory, the fact is that Chinese-Indian relations have been souring for some time because of India’s provocative policies in stoking heightened tensions along its shared (and at parts, disputed) Himalayan border region with China. New Delhi has been “looking for a fight” with Beijing for some time, something which wasn’t lost on the Chinese military when it warned that India “should learn from historical lessons and stop such clamouring for war” in response to its Army Chief saber-rattling in early June about how his country was ready for a “two-and-a-half-front war”, which can only be logically presumed to have been directed against China, Pakistan, and the people living in the Indian-occupied territory of Kashmir. The US is egging India on because it wants to see a border skirmish – however small – which could then be immediately exploited to strengthen the unprecedented US-Indian military-strategic partnership and sabotage the upcoming BRICS meeting in China in September.

The US’ plan has always been to “flip” India against China in the New Cold War just as it “flipped” China against the USSR in the Old Cold War, and this policy forms the basis of America’s 21st-century grand strategy towards Eurasia and is responsible for the Chinese-Indian Cold War which has been steadily building up over the past 2 years. The US knows that there’s no chance of going back to the old order of business if it can manipulate India and China into an actual border clash, however brief it may be, and it’s cooked up this latest scheme in order to bring this about. While the timing of China’s road construction was decided independently of Modi’s trip to the US, it nevertheless served as the trigger event that India and the US had been patiently waiting for in order to set their joint plans into action, and even if it doesn’t result in the outbreak of small-scale military hostilities like Washington is hoping it will, this episode has still seriously damaged Indian-Chinese relations beyond the point of any quick return.

India’s Intentions

India ordered its jingoistic state-influenced media to portray events in such a way that New Delhi is made to look like the victim of China’s “aggression”, even though Bhutan’s border disagreement with China has nothing to directly do with India at all, and the Indian military’s intervention in this spat is the reason why it’s become a global scandal in the first place. In seeking to “justify” their position, India’s hyper-nationalist information outlets claim that China shouldn’t be allowed to exercise its legal sovereignty over the Donglang Plateau because this could give it a decisive military advantage in the event of hostilities with India, pointing out how this territory is supposedly within easy artillery striking range of India’s “Chicken’s Neck” in the narrow Siliguri Corridor connecting the country’s “mainland” with its “Seven Sisters” in the Northeast. According to this one-sided “zero-sum” argument, China is supposedly salivating for an existential conflict with India because it’s been plotting for years to sever its rival’s seven most geographically vulnerable provinces from its control.

Conspicuously absent from the Indian discourse on this matter is any mentioning whatsoever of the “win-win” counterargument that enhanced Chinese-Indian trading ties through the Sikkim-Chumbi Valley junction could strengthen ties between the two Asian Great Powers by deepening their complex real-sector economic interdependency through China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity. As could have been expected, the “zero-sum” mentality commonly associated with the US and its unipolar allies/vassals is the prevalent factor influencing India’s strategic thinking, so with that in mind, it’s not surprising that India is taking direct military measures to preempt China’s forthcoming de-facto OBOR connectivity with it through Sikkim just as its waging the Hybrid War on CPEC to prevent the same with Pakistan, all per the US’ strategic demands. Therefore, it’s best to conceptualize the latest tensions between the two over the Chinese-Bhutanese border as a military manifestation of their competitive connectivity, whereby India is wielding whatever means it can stop China’s Silk Roads from reaching even further into South Asia.

Introducing The N-Variable

From a quick look at the situation, the latest tensions seem to only be about China, India, and Bhutan, with astute individuals seeing the US’ hidden influence in guiding events but barely anyone else recognizing that there’s really another player involved, and that’s Nepal. In fact, Kathmandu has the chance to play the role of kingmaker in determining the course of this conflict and the future geopolitics of South Asia, but in order for the reader to understand why this is, a concise background briefing on the regional influence of the Nepali diaspora is absolutely necessary.

Nepal, for a brief period of time in the early 1800s, used to be a lot larger than it currently is, but the Gorkha Kingdom (as it was called then) was cut down to size by the British following the 1814-1816 Anglo-Nepalese War and the subsequent Treaty of Sugauli that dismantled “Greater Nepal”. The country never formally regained its former territory in the political sense, but that didn’t stop its nationals from migrating throughout the centuries even further throughout its erstwhile eastern periphery and into what is nowadays Sikkim, West Bengal, and Bhutan. The circumstances surrounding Nepali migration into these three domains is different in each one, whether it was a somewhat ‘natural’ process like in Sikkim, a British-supported labor project such as what occurred in the northern reaches of tea-rich West Bengal, or ‘temporarily’ imported construction workers such as what the Bhutanese Kings originally intended. Each of these three, however, led to their own set of geopolitical problems that are still playing out today, especially as regards West Bengal and the relevance of the pertinent situation to the Donglang Drama.

Sikkim:

Concerning Sikkim, this formerly independent Kingdom’s Nepali population eventually swelled to the point where this demographic became the majority in the small state, after which it feels under Indian influence just like its namesake country was at the time order to function as New Delhi’s cat’s paw for eventually annexing Sikkim under disputed circumstances. Sunanda K. Datta-Ray’s 1984 book “Smash and Grab: Annexation of Sikkim” describes this in more detail than the scope of the present analysis permits, but the general idea is that the Nepali majority formed the basis of the pro-Indian “Sikkim National Congress” (SNC) which had been agitating for incorporation into India for years. Anti-monarchy clashes in 1973 prompted the King (known as the ‘chogyal’) to request limited Indian support per the suzerainty agreement that he signed with New Delhi after 1947. One year later, the SNC won all but one parliamentary seat and pushed through a ‘constitutional coup’ which essentially made the chogyal a figurehead leader and declared their country an “associated state” with India.

Brief street battles took place in 1975 but were put to a quick end after India invaded, disarmed the chogyal, and ‘supervised’ an annexation ‘referendum’ under disputed circumstances. It wasn’t until 2003 that China recognized Indian authority over Sikkim in exchange for India doing the same as regards China’s sovereignty over Tibet, showing just how long Beijing disagreed with what New Delhi had done. Some observers might be tempted to describe the Sikkim annexation events as a “Reverse Kashmir” because a majority Hindu (Nepali) population was living under a Buddhist chogyal and prevented from joining their co-confessionals in the neighboring state of India, just like the Hindu ‘maharaja’ of Kashmir prevented his majority-Muslim population from becoming part of Pakistan. However, such a comparison is superfluous because the key difference is that the Kashmiri Muslims have always been indigenous to their home territory, whereas the Hindu Nepalese were immigrants to Sikkim and functioned as “Weapons of Mass Migration” on behalf of Indian leader Indira Gandhi, albeit to a lesser intensity and scale than the Mukti Bahini did in neighboring Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) a few years prior to the Indian annexation of Sikkim.

Bhutan:

This tiny Himalayan Kingdom made a major and short-sighted mistake when it imported thousands of Nepali laborers to work in its southern plains and jungles. They eventually became the dominant minority in this part of the country and expectedly agitated for political representation and other such “rights”. Thimphu tried to deal with the problem through its two citizenship laws of 1958 and 1985 which decreed the conditions for Nepali immigrants to be counted as Bhutanese citizens. The first law was a preemptive measure against what eventually turned out to be the “Sikkim Scenario”, which is why the second one was implemented as a stricter reform designed to prevent this eventuality. The first-ever 1988 census shocked the Bhutanese leaders when it revealed that almost half of the country’s total population was comprised of Nepalis, which attempted to construct their own identity as “Lhotshampa” (Southerners) just like how Indian migrants to Nepal call themselves “Madhesi”, Bengalis in Myanmar go by “Rohingya”, and Albanians in the Serbian Province of Kosovo prefer to be seen as “Kosovars”.

Facing an imminent existential threat, Bhutan pushed back against the “Weapons of Mass Migration” that it irresponsibly turned a blind eye to for decades and implemented the “Driglam Namzha”, which is referred to as a national dress and etiquette code for protecting its socio-cultural traditions from further encroachment and therefore safeguarding the future of their state. The Nepalese didn’t take too kindly to this and formed a “political party” (later designated a terrorist group by Thimphu) called the “Bhutan People’s Party” (BPP) which carried out militant attacks against the state and civilians alike. In many ways, this was just like the “Gorkhaland National Liberal Front” (GNLF) of ethnic Nepalese which sprung up in the northern parts of West Bengal during the 1980s, leading Thimphu to fear that a transnational insurgency was dangerously taking root. In response, the military launched a counterinsurgency operation to expel the terrorists, but which also had the effect of prompting many of the Nepali “Lhotshampa” to flee as well, leading to the West voicing concern about the fate of what they disingenuously termed “Bhutanese refugees”.

India:

Finally, the most situationally relevant “N-Variable” at play nowadays is the political-administrative status of the Nepali population in northern West Bengal. This group claims that they’re indigenous to the region and deserve their own separate state within India because of it, apparently on the grounds that they have no common identity with the Bengali majority that they’re nominally linked to aside from shared Hindu beliefs. India’s 1956 States Reorganization Act aimed to reform the country’s territorial units on the basis of linguistic lines, but it was evidently imperfect and multiple changes have taken place since then, especially in the Northeastern States colloquially called the “Seven Sisters”. The Nepali population of northern West Bengal felt that they too should have been granted their own state called “Gorkhaland”, especially if nearby populations in the Seven Sisters were being given this same right, and their anti-government resentment eventually bubbled over and took the violent form of the GNLF.

The low-intensity insurgency ultimately fizzled out after New Delhi conceded to allowing the creation of the “Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council” (DGHC) in 1988, and the more peaceful successor organization of the “Gorkha Janmukti Morcha” (GJM) continued the GNLF’s struggle for a separate state from the mid-2000s onwards. The GJM immediately set to work and launched a prolonged and sustained campaign of civil resistance in favor of “Gorkhaland”, which eventually led India to once more give in the Nepalis’ demands by transforming the DGHC into the “Gorkhaland Territorial Administration” (GTA) in 2012. Sensing weakness from the central state due to its pattern of capitulations, the GJM predictably wasn’t satisfied with the GTA and continued to advocate for their hoped-for “Gorkhaland” statehood. The most recent campaign was launched in June right before the latest Chinese-Indian tensions over the Donglang Plateau following Kolkata’s decree stipulating that Bengali be a compulsory subject for all students in the state.

There’s a high risk of interethnic tensions between Nepalis and Bengalis this time around, so the situation might devolve into large-scale violence if the latest unrest isn’t dealt with as soon as possible.

A Nepali Nightmare For India

‘Beheading’ The Chicken’s Neck:

Having placed the “N-Variable” into its pertinent regional context, it’s now time to transition to talking about how it’s related to the Donglang Drama and the kingmaker role that Kathmandu can ultimately play in South Asian geopolitics. The most important trend linking the sub-national aspirations of the Nepali diaspora in Sikkim, Bhutan, and India is their desire to de-facto implement the geopolitical project of “Greater Nepal” across part of South Asia, identical in the structural sense to the “Greater Albania” project being pushed by the Albanians in part of the Balkans. The difference, however, is that the Albanian “Weapons of Mass Migration” is instrumentalized by the US, whereas the Nepali ones aren’t under Washington’s control and are in fact a wildcard which could totally upend America’s geostrategic plans for the region.

Right now these “weapons” are inactive in Sikkim after having accomplished what India wanted of them almost half a century ago, and Bhutan flushed most of them out of its southern provinces so it’s less threatened by this factor than before, but all that this means is that the concentration of Nepalis in northern West Bengal’s GTA is becoming the next simmering front in the campaign for “Greater Nepal”, one which could realistically spill over its borders into both Sikkim and Bhutan.

Worse still, any “Gorkhaland”-related destabilization could instantly sever the Chicken’s Neck of the Siliguri Corridor and pretty much cut off the insurgent-prone Seven Sisters from the rest of India and derail its overland engagement with ASEAN, which is why New Delhi is so afraid of this project and has a history of giving in to its demands. However, there’s a clear red line over how far India can go in acquiescing to the GJM, since the formation of “Gorkhaland” as a separate state would immediately lead to calls by the Bodo in neighboring Assam for recognition of their own state-level homeland that they’ve already been fighting for years to attain, sometimes through terrorist means. This could set off a new wave of destabilization all across the Seven Sisters and force New Delhi into simultaneously dealing with insurgencies in occupied Kashmir in the Northwest and the handful of states in the Northeast.

In addition, there’s no telling whether the Nepalis would be content with their “Gorkhaland” borders and won’t try to incorporate the Nepali-majority regions of neighboring Sikkim, just like the Nagas in Nagaland are attempting to do with their own surrounding states as regards their respective ethno-demographic. From India’s vantage point, a separate “Gorkhaland” state would facilitate the eventual formation of “Greater Gorkhaland” in Sikkim and cause instant tensions with New Delhi’s client state of Bhutan, which is afraid that the Nepali “Lhotshampa” “Bhutanese refugees” might try to return to the Kingdom’s southern provinces and annex them to their new statelet through a forthcoming insurgency. All in all, each of these interlinked and plausible scenarios lays the groundwork for “Greater Nepal”, the ‘beheading’ of India’s Chicken’s Neck, and the loss of the Seven Sisters, which is why New Delhi can’t enact any more concessions and will probably be forced to take stern measures in dealing with the most recent unrest.

“Madhesi” Blowback:

What’s taking place with the Nepali “Gorkhas” in India is very ironic because it’s the almost perfect reflection of what New Delhi recently tried to do in Nepal with the Indian “Madhesi” minority. To explain, the “Madhesi” are Indian immigrants who live in the southern Terai plains region of Nepal and are thought to number close to half of the country’s total population. India instrumentalized its “Weapons of Mass Migration” in 2015 by encouraging them to riot in opposition to Nepal’s new federal constitution, which supposedly tried to dilute their political power and prevent them from behaving as New Delhi’s pawns in this new administrative construction. India’s unprecedentedly hostile Hybrid War moves against its decades-long ally caused Kathmandu to look closer to Beijing, which was more than happy to provide it with political and economic assistance. In fact, ties between the two countries have evolved at such a lightning-fast pace that China is now planning to build a high-speed railroad under Mount Everest and to the Nepali capital as part of a new Himalayan Silk Road.

The tradeoff, however, was that Nepal did eventually cave into India’s demands for reforming the territorial boundaries of its forthcoming federal units, but this domestic concession pales in comparison to the geostrategic loss that India experienced through Nepal’s “defection” to China, which was entirely the result of New Delhi’s short-sighted policy failings towards Kathmandu. The irony is that just as the Indian “Madhesi” threatened the existence of the Nepali state just a few years ago and are still to a large extent being wielded as a “Damocles’ Sword” over the country, now the Nepali “Gorkha” are poised to present just as powerful of an existential threat to the Indian state through their “Gorkhaland” demands, though the difference is that there’s no clear indication that this is being coordinated with Kathmandu. Unlike how New Delhi was responsible for the Indian “Madhesis’” Hybrid War threats against Nepal, it’s not yet confirmed that Kathmandu is behind the Nepali “Gorkhas’” asymmetrical campaign against India, but whether it is or not, it still has an uncertain degree of influence over these actors owing to the fact that it’s the capital of their historic homeland.

If the Nepali government wanted to, it’s in a prime position to activate its own “Weapons of Migration” against India just as New Delhi did against it a few years ago with the Indian “Madhesis”, but with the difference being that this time around, Kathmandu could receive implicit regional support from Beijing if it leverages the incipient Chinese-Nepali Strategic Partnership in such a way that it complements the People’s Republic in its present border spat with India and Bhutan. As it stands, all of this is strategic speculation and there isn’t any publicly available evidence that Nepal and China are coordinating to support the GJM’s reenergized “Gorkhaland” campaign, but in the event that they are or decide to do so sometime in the future, then it would have profound implications for India’s security and territorial integrity. In fact, it might even end up being a powerful enough factor that it forces India’s Hindutva hyper-nationalist and pro-American decision makers into constructive talks with Nepal and China in hashing out a “gentleman’s agreement” for regional peace and New Silk Road connectivity.

The Fog Of War:

Like it was just reiterated, it can’t be known for sure whether a Nepali and/or Chinese connection to the latest “Gorkhaland” destabilization campaign exists or not, but this likely doesn’t change anything from India’s perspective since its “zero-sum” leadership probably believes that there’s some sort of coordination regardless. The ‘fog of war’ is thick enough, and regional distrust at an all-time high, that India is likely convinced that “Gorkhaland” is a joint Chinese-Nepali plot to ‘behead’ the Chicken’s Neck, one which was perfectly timed to coincide with the Donglang Drama. Again, this is just how India probably perceives things and there’s no evidence whatsoever that this is the case, but continuing with this ‘thought exercise’, New Delhi would in that case fear that “Gorkhaland” is a behind-the-lines Hybrid War campaign meant to asymmetrically destabilize India in the run-up to the moment that its military was “tricked” by China into falling for the Donglang “provocation”.

In this version of events, India still conspired with the US to escalate border tensions with China under a variety of pretexts, and Beijing ‘luckily’ provided the ‘perfect reason’ to do so coincidentally around the time of Modi’s visit to the US. However, the Indian military might be lamenting its decision to launch incursions into China’s Chumbi Valley and the Donglang Plateau if it came to believe that it was masterfully manipulated by Beijing into strategically overextending itself precisely at the moment that a supposedly ‘Beijing-backed’ “Gorkhaland” insurgency was timed to break out. Any intensification of either the Chinese-Indian Cold War in Chumbi-Donglang or the “Gorkhaland” campaign could trigger copycat destabilizations all throughout the Seven Sisters, with each of these interlinked conflicts rapidly advancing the author’s previously predicted scenario of a “Proxy War To End All Proxy Wars” which envisions the two Asian Great Powers fiercely supporting insurgencies in one another’s territories as they lock horns in an existential proxy struggle for regional leadership.

On the other hand, there’s the equally plausible possibility that the “Gorkhaland” campaign is completely independent of either Nepal or China, and that it was only a coincidence that it restarted a week or two before the Chinese-Indian tensions over Chumbi-Donglang. India probably doesn’t perceive it that way, even if this explanation is closer to reality than the previously mentioned one. Should this be the case, however, then it means that Kathmandu could decisively play the role of peacemaker between Beijing and New Delhi behind closed doors by helping them reach an understanding over Chumbi-Donglang in exchange for Nepal putting pressure on the “Gorkhaland” campaign to cease and desist its ongoing destabilization of the Chicken’s Neck. There’s no guarantee that Kathmandu would be successful with this, or even if it has the means and soft power to influence this cross-border group, but the proposed initiative could help the country position itself as an equally trusted partner of both India and China.

Moreover, Nepal could also show India that it understands the bigger picture behind New Delhi’s strategic sensitivities pertaining to the “Gorkhaland” campaign and its particular timing nowadays and is actively taking steps to help deescalate the situation, taking care to convey that it’s aware of how this fits into India’s fears that the Donglang Drama is creating a double security dilemma over the Chicken’s Neck. If Kathmandu plays the role of kingmaker in easing the “Gorkhaland” tensions “behind the lines” of the Donglang Drama in India’s Siliguri Corridor, then it could demonstrate its strategic utility to New Delhi and give its jingoistic decision makers pause to question whether it’s worth wielding the “Madhesis” against it and China’s Himalayan Silk Road interests if Nepal can just do the same with the “Gorkhas” in the future in ‘beheading’ the Chicken’s Neck. It doesn’t matter in this instance if Nepal and China really were behind the “Gorkhaland” campaign or not – what’s important here is that Kathmandu takes the lead in trying to soothe over this dispute in order to send a supportive message to both New Delhi and Beijing and thereby elevate its regional status as a result.

Concluding Thoughts

The American-provoked Donglang Drama is a lot more complex than it initially looks since the simplistic Mainstream Media portrayal of these events as a “Chinese land grab” is deliberately misleading and distracts from the US’ role in this crisis. China has every right to construct whatever it wants on its sovereign space and to move troops throughout any of its territorial reaches, so the blame for the latest events shouldn’t be leveled at Beijing’s doorstep. Instead, it’s much more relevant to bear in mind India’s hostile behavior towards China over the past three years of Modi’s reign and New Delhi’s unprecedented and game-changing military-strategic partnership with Washington over that time in assessing the degree of which these two unipolar Great Powers were waiting for the right pretext to ‘pick a fight’ with China in order to ‘justify’ their new relations. China’s decision to build a road on the plateau provided the ‘perfect excuse’ for the US and India’s joint contingency plans to spring into action right at the time of Modi’s visit to Washington in dramatically pushing China and India to the brink of another 1962-like war, all per the US’ plans in breaking BRICS and dividing the multipolar world.

Bhutan is basically playing the role of a “useful idiot” in serving as the semi-plausible basis on which India got involved in what would have otherwise been a low-level disagreement between Thimphu and Beijing, while Washington is guiding New Delhi’s actions in line with their strategic partnership. All the while, however, a fifth factor has surprisingly made itself known, and that’s the “N-Variable” of Nepali agitation for a separate “Gorkhaland” state in West Bengal, which India fears could ‘behead’ the Chicken’s Neck. All of a sudden, from the perspective of New Delhi’s aggressive and paranoid decision makers, it seems to them that the Chicken’s Neck is now under threat from two directions at once – the first from China’s legal presence in Tibet’s Donglang Plateau 50km away from that chokepoint, and the second from “Gorkhaland” supporters “behind the lines” smack dab in the center of it. This is obviously too much for India to deal with at once, which is why it’s overreacting even more than the US could have expected, although this is of course to Washington’s grand strategic benefit because it improves the chances that New Delhi will go wild like a raging bull and start a brief border war.

Even though all eyes are on Beijing and New Delhi amidst this tense standoff, they should really be focused on Kathmandu, since Nepal could become the kingmaker of South Asian geopolitics depending on how it leverages any influence that it could have with the “Gorkhaland” agitators. On the one hand, it could opt to do the same thing to India that New Delhi did it with the “Madhesis” by encouraging them to violently riot and wage a low-level insurgency, which could then trigger an instant domino effect of destabilization all throughout the Seven Sisters and open up a Pandora’s Box of problems in the “Indian Balkans”.

However, Nepal could be a much more responsible actor and instead seek to mediate between the “Gorkhaland” supporters and New Delhi and help diminish the chances that the aforementioned dark scenario could transpire, which in turn could provide a much-needed boost of trust to the two sides’ recently frayed relations and therefore alleviate the double security dilemma that India perceived it was experiencing around the Chicken’s Neck through the coincidental timing of China’s Donglang road building activities and the restarting of the “Gorkhaland” campaign.

If India’s leaders have any level-headedness left in their decision-making capacities, then they could interpret any pragmatic king-making role on behalf of Kathmandu as a clear sign of the landlocked state’s willingness to broker peace between New Delhi and Beijing and disrupt Washington’s plans to spark another 1962-like border conflict. That outcome could help India walk back from the brink of making the self-destructive choice to militarily engage China over a small strip of territory that its Bhutanese ally is disputing with Beijing, and instead sober up to the frightening reality of what the US was setting it up to do and ideally take steps to correct the negative trajectory that Washington has put it on.

That, however, is the most optimistic outcome for what could happen, and it’s much more likely that the ties between China and India will never be the same like how they were before this event transpired. In that case, and amidst the expectedly rising distrust between both sides, Nepal has the ‘nuclear option’ of throwing its weight behind China by backing the “Gorkhaland” movement and consequently catalyzing a chain reaction of insurgencies that spread throughout the Seven Sisters and sever the Chicken’s Neck from the rest of India.


By Andrew Korybko
Source: Regional Rapport

Advertisements