Rameshwar Bohara in Himal Khabarpatrika, 16-22 July
Police in and around the Kathmandu Valley are equipped with state-of-the-art communication sets more advanced than anywhere else in Nepal. That is not because it is the capital, but because the Chinese helped Nepal Police with a Rs400 million digital radio communication system for Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Sindhupalchok and Kaski districts. Unlike normal communication equipment used by police in other districts, the high-tech Chinese radio sets can make calls, take videos and broadcast them live. The six districts were not chosen randomly. They reflect Beijing’s priorities and concerns in Nepal about the activities of Tibetans. Many refugees fleeing Tibet enter Nepal through Sindhupalchok and Dolakha and access the Valley through Kavre. Kaski, too, has a sizeable Tibetan refugee population.
It is not just China. The US and India are also competing to access intelligence gathered by Nepal Police by equipping them with their own technology. Ex-DIG Hemanta Malla Thakuri says western countries realised long before China and India how they could benefit from the nationwide intelligence network of the Nepal Police.
The command centre at police headquarters in Naxal was connected via an intranet with 86 police units in 60 districts through a system installed by the US Government at a cost of Rs700 million in 2010. Police headquarters constantly monitors what is happening around the country through this network. The US also gifted the police with polygraph machines to use as lie detectors.
The US is interested in police surveillance of human traffickers, wildlife poachers, drug smugglers and potential terrorists. It is also concerned about the welfare of Tibetan refugees in Nepal, and wants to keep track of what the Chinese are up to. The two countries are, therefore, using equipment they have gifted to Nepal Police to keep an eye on each other.
India is funding a new, state-of-the-art Rs8 billion police academy. The project, signed during the visit here by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, is now stalled after India accused Nepal of violating the agreement by unilaterally selecting contractors. Efforts are underway to sort out this issue. India donated 805 new vehicles to Nepal Police during the first Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, and topped it up with 443 new vehicles during the second CA elections in 2013.
Ex-DIG Thakuri says police eagerly wait for elections because they know the Indians are ready to gift them more pick-ups. However, there is also concern that the modern surveillance equipment can be used by Nepali officials to track the whereabouts of private individuals and to eavesdrop on their calls and data.
During the monarchy, the international community dealt directly with the Army for intelligence, arms sales, etc. But with the conflict and the establishment of the Armed Police Force, India, China and the US cooperate with the Police instead. The international competition for influence has got so intense that two years ago Police Chief Upendra Kant Aryal sent out a circular warning department heads not to deal directly with foreign embassies in Kathmandu. He ended the letter with an ominous: ‘This is a final warning.’
Centre for Investigative Journalism