NEW DELHI: Incursions by the Chinese army into Indian territory may have dominated news space in the past few months but India’s external
intelligence agency RAW has warned that a more serious issue at hand is the mushrooming of rather innocuously named Nepal-China study centres in Nepal which are being used by the Chinese to spy on India.
Highly placed officials in the government revealed that RAW has conveyed to the government that these study centres, which are located all along the Indo-Nepal border, are being used to clandestinely gather information on Indian activities. Sources said the agency has identified 24 such centres, most of which are located in close proximity to Nepal’s border with India.
It is not just these study centres in Nepal which have left Indian agencies racking their brains. Sources revealed that RAW is monitoring around 30 Chinese firms which have set up base in Nepal and may be involved in spying on India.
Sources said most of these firms were headed by former PLA officers making it almost mandatory for India to keep an eye on their activities. They cited example of some construction and telecom companies which are active in Nepal and their operations are headed by retired Chinese army officers.
According to Indian officials, the speed at which the study centres have come up in the past few years is a manifestation of the way in which China has tried to increase its influence in Nepal. Beijing has been offering military and financial assistance to Nepal and its envoy in Nepal Quo Guohang said last month that if Nepal faces threats to its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, China would help it not only militarily but also financially and diplomatically.
“RAW is aware of the situation. These centres are mostly located close to Nepal’s open border with India. There is an understanding developing within the government that if this continues, the issue will have to be taken up diplomatically with Nepal,” said a senior security official. These study centres are mostly headed by Chinese and are supposed to provide an insight into Chinese customs, language and economic development.
China has gone out of its way to present itself before Nepal as an alternative to India in the past two years and has promoted multi-level interactions with Nepal and its people. Beijing is constructing a highway connecting Lhasa to Kathmandu at a cost of over $100 million. The two countries are seeing enhanced military cooperation. In September 2008, China announced a $1.3 million military aid package for Nepal and three months later PLA promised another $2.6 million for the same purpose.