China's rise expected to bring UK's interest in Himalayan region: Report

Chinese President Xi Jinping China

The continuous attempts made by the People's Republic of China (PRC) in trying to change the geopolitics of South Asia, is expected to bring United Kingdom's (UK) interests in the Himalayan region, where it no longer has any direct concern involved, a report of Gray Sergeant by a think tank named Council on Geostrategy said.

In its attempts to change the demographic structure, PRC has been building infrastructure in Bhutanese territory and has also increased its interference in Nepal.

Although, territorial disputes between Bhutan and PRC have lasted for decades over their 470-kilometre-long border. But, in recent years Beijing has increased its efforts to alter the facts on the ground permanently

"Furthermore, this behaviour demonstrates the PRC's growing willingness to assert itself beyond its borders and act decisively to alter the status quo in its favour as it has done elsewhere, for example in the South China Sea and across the Taiwan Strait."

PRC has carried out measures to stem the flow of Tibetan refugees who come into Nepal by crossing the Himalayas. Beijing has also been pressurising Nepal to suppress the Tibetan and pro-Tibet activities inside the Nepalese border

These longstanding issues are a stark example of how growing PRC influence within smaller nations can result in the undermining of human rights and their active support for Beijing's 'One China principle.

Concerns are also present regarding the rivers India shares with PRC. Beijing has the potential to control exactly how much water will be flowing downstream, and given PRC's non-seriousness towards transparency, widen those concerns.

The issue demonstrates the PRC's willingness to ignore international norms and leverage a practical problem for political purposes, in this case as a tool in the wider territorial dispute with India, Council on Geostrategy stated.

The think tank also listed a number of recommendations for the British government. It believes that the UK should broaden its approach towards the Indo-Pacific posture covering the maritime and terrestrial theatres of the region.

The UK should be very closely monitoring the situation in Bhutan and condemn further incursions through joint statements.

It should also enhance its trade with Nepal to counter Chinese influence. UK's efforts to support Nepal's democratic transition, through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and other Foreign Office initiatives, should continue.

The UK should also look towards enhancing its relation with India on both bilateral and security levels

"India's own security concerns will also become more important to Britain as it seeks to strengthen bilateral ties with New Delhi, Gray Sergeant stated.

The think tank believes that India should be seen as more than just a trading partner and its security concerns should not just be treated as a bilateral issue.

Also, India is also looking forward to working more closely with British partners such as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and AUKUS, to counterbalance the PRC.

"India's own security concerns will also become more important to Britain as it seeks to strengthen bilateral ties with New Delhi," the report stated.

The UK should also support initiatives like the 'South Asia Water Initiative', which aims to enhance knowledge, technical and policy capacity and build relations with countries involved in the Himalayan river systems.

Other than all this, the Council on Geostrategy believes that the UK should also stand up for the Tibetians. Although, the British government had raised its concern about human rights in Tibet. But it must continue to raise concerns by engaging with international bodies.

It should monitor the border developments on the PRC border. Also, it should try to extend support to the Tibetan refugees by engaging with the Nepalese government.

Even though, Britain's frontiers no longer exist in the Himalayas and it no longer has any direct interests in the region. Still, because of the strategic and geopolitical importance, of the concerned region, its focus should be shifting to the region.

The think tank also cited the Integrated Review of March 2021 for saying that the UK would 'tilt' towards these areas, particularly to enhance relations with pivotal states such as Australia, India, Japan, and Vietnam, and to uphold an open international order.

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