The Chinese government may have supplied arms to the Maoists and begun engaging in direct talks with them. The reports have a lot of people worried.
In what would be a dramatic reversal of course for the Chinese government, Nepali and Indian media are reporting that China has dispatched arms to the Maoists. Member of Parliament and former home minister Govinda Raj Joshi last week demanded that the government “clarify” the matter after Nepali newspapers reported a shipment of Chinese small arms had crossed from Tibet to the northern Nepali district of Jumla.
China has maintained for many years that Nepal’s rebels were not “Maoists” and that their actions disgraced the name and image of Mao. During King Gyanendra’s absolute reign, India and western nations cut off military aid to Nepal: Only China continued to supply arms to the Nepal Army, reportedly at a huge profit. Speculations are rife in Kathmandu that the Chinese are rapidly backtracking from their old position, having realized that the Maoists are likely to participate in – and may indeed control – the next Nepal government.
Feeding that speculation, an Indian online news portal, IndiaeNews.com, has reported that a former Chinese consular official in the Kathmandu embassy and two Chinese intelligence officers made a secret trip to Nepal earlier this month to meet with top Maoist leaders in Dhulikhel, a tourist resort town outside of Kathmandu. The story says that after meeting Prachanda, his deputy Baburam Bhattarai, and Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the Chinese officers then went with the Maoist leaders to observe maneuvers of Maoist forces a few kilometers away.
The reports have sparked concerns inside Nepal and among international governments that Chinese arms supplies to and direct contacts with the Maoists could destabilize a peace process that is deadlocked on management of Maoist arms.