Can Nepal Charm Its Neighbors?

Once again, Nepal is caught between the tiger and the dragon. A few months ago, Indian police uncovered a counterfeit currency racket led by India's most wanted criminal, Dawood Ibraheem, and involving agents in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. For Nepal, initially the bust was a public relations mess—among those charged in the racket was former Nepalese Crown Prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah Dev, who was heir apparent to the throne before the country's monarchy was abolished in 2008. But the bust was yet another incident that has led to current concerns about Nepal as a safe harbor for international criminals. There are over 100 known armed groups along Nepal’s border with India. Despite government efforts, abduction, thievery and other criminal activities are on the rise. And, Indian critics accuse Nepal of allowing itself to be used for drug trafficking and producing counterfeit money.

Does it bite?

The Nepalese government recently agreed to cooperate with the UN and Interpol to curb international crime, and this would seem to dovetail nicely into the decision last month by Interpol to issue special passports to its senior investigators that would allow them to enter any of the group's 188-member countries without visas to make it easier to apprehend international criminals.

However, most member countries haven't decided yet whether they’ll allow Interpol officers without visas. And therein lies the tight spot for Nepal: what will India and China do?

Often, Nepal’s neighbors complain about Nepali crime and have conflicting viewpoints on international criminal cases. Despite India’s trade dominance in Nepal, tensions between the two countries have grown as Nepal’s ruling Communist party has boosted ties to China. Yet China’s government has complained recently about Nepal’s harboring of Tibetan refugees.

Nepal's Home Minister Bhim Bahadur Rawal admitted that the government is still deciding whether to accept Interpol’s request, and in the coming weeks it will most definitely be closely studying how India and China would respond. This is another example of the delicate balancing act Nepal must undergo in order to appease its larger neighbors, and a wrong move in either direction could have serious repercussions.

- Rajneesh Bhandari