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Espionage Alert: Chinese Nationals' Covert Operations Along India's Borders; By Annunthra K

Updated: Nov 3, 2023


Image courtesy: Epardafas

Article 35/2023

The recent apprehension of a Chinese national attempting to illicitly enter India has reignited discussions surrounding China's alleged encroachments into Indian territory. This individual, caught with a counterfeit Indian passport at the Indo-Nepal border, has raised suspicions of espionage activities. The arrest sheds light on a larger issue of security breaches and prompts a critical analysis of the implications for India's national security.


Indian security forces have thwarted an audacious plot orchestrated by China, aimed at infiltrating subversive elements and spies into India through the Nepal border. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), entrusted with safeguarding the porous India-Nepal border, successfully apprehended two Chinese nationals in Bihars Kishanganj district over consecutive days last week. This incident has shed light on a clandestine operation that capitalises on the ease of movement between Nepal and India, where Nepali citizens require no visa for entry into India, and vice versa. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed in 1950 further guarantees unrestricted cross-border mobility between the two nations, leaving a significant gap in security checks for the thousands who traverse this boundary daily.


In a recent revelation, a passport scam operating in Bengal and Sikkim has confirmed suspicions of intelligence agencies. Authorities, along with middlemen, have been apprehended for fraudulently issuing passports to Nepali nationals in exchange for large sums. This scheme has facilitated the entry of Chinese nationals into India without valid visas, furthering concerns of espionage activities.


One such case involved 26-year-old Chinese national Wang Goujun, who entered India through Nepal without a valid visa. After a journey spanning Thailand and Nepal, Goujun reached Delhi in February 2023. During his stay, he visited various critical installations before being arrested at the Nepal-India border by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) while attempting to return to Nepal.


Another incident in October 2022 saw Delhi Police detain Chinese national Cai Ruo, who had been residing in India under a false identity as a Nepalese citizen named Dolma Lama. Despite her claims of being a Buddhist, Ruo's inability to speak Nepalese raised suspicions. Further investigation revealed Ruo's attempts to mislead authorities by fabricating documents and ID cards, exposing her as a well-trained operative engaged in spying and conspiratorial activities against the nation.


The series of events outlined shed light on a deeply concerning pattern of espionage activities orchestrated by China within India's borders. The apprehension of Chinese nationals using counterfeit passports and engaging in subversive activities underscores the need for a comprehensive reevaluation of India's border security protocols. The existence of a passport scam operating in Bengal and Sikkim further highlights the vulnerabilities that have been exploited. It is imperative for Indian authorities to take swift and decisive action to address these security breaches and implement stricter measures to safeguard the nation's interests and territorial integrity. Additionally, diplomatic channels must be activated to address this matter with China and ensure that such incursions are curtailed in the future.


Inputs from Mr. Sambridh Ghimire, Institute for Government and Public Affairs, Nepal


Given the context, it’s clear that addressing the espionage threats from China in the India-Nepal region requires a well-coordinated effort between India and Nepal, taking into account the resource constraints faced by Nepal. Here's an elaboration on the points you've mentioned:


Key Takeaways:

Territorial Intrusions: The Chinese interest in territorial encroachments is evident, necessitating vigilance and strategic planning.

Espionage & Intelligence Gathering: The collection of sensitive information by Chinese operatives poses a direct threat to India’s national security.

Identity Fraud: The expertise in document forgery and identity fraud showcases the sophistication of Chinese espionage tactics.

Cross-Border Vulnerabilities: The incidents highlight the need for fortified border security and stringent immigration controls.

Support Networks: The presence of networks facilitating the entry of Chinese spies into India necessitates comprehensive counter-intelligence efforts.


Recommendations:


For Nepal:


Strengthen Border Security: Nepal should increase its border security personnel and deploy advanced surveillance technologies.

Improve Screening Procedures: Enhance passport and visa application screening to detect forged documents.

Intelligence Cooperation with India: Strengthen intelligence sharing mechanisms with India to identify and neutralize espionage threats.

Training & Capacity Building: Invest in training programs for border security and immigration officials.

Legal Repercussions: Fortify laws related to espionage and illegal border crossings, ensuring strict enforcement.

Diplomatic Engagement with China: Directly address espionage concerns with Chinese authorities.

Public Awareness: Foster a culture of vigilance among citizens, encouraging them to report suspicious activities.


For India:

Lead Support Role: Share forensic and strategic expertise with Nepal to enhance their capabilities.

Joint Training Programs: Implement joint training programs for border security and intelligence personnel.

Technical Assistance: Provide Nepal with advanced surveillance equipment and forensic tools.

Enhanced Intelligence Cooperation: Establish robust intelligence-sharing mechanisms with Nepal.

Strategic Collaboration: Develop a framework for a coordinated response to espionage threats.

Capacity Building in Nepal: Assist in building institutional capacities for counter-intelligence in Nepal.

Diplomatic Engagement with China: Engage diplomatically with China to address espionage issues at a bilateral level.


Implementation Challenges and Considerations:

While the recommendations provide a comprehensive framework for action, it is important to consider the challenges in their implementation, particularly given Nepal’s resource constraints.


Resource Constraints: Nepal might not have sufficient human resources, infrastructure, and technology to implement these recommendations independently.

Dependence on India: Nepal might need to rely heavily on India for technical assistance, training, and intelligence sharing.

Diplomatic Sensitivities: Engaging diplomatically with China on espionage issues will require careful handling to avoid escalating tensions.

Building Trust: Establishing robust intelligence cooperation requires a high level of trust between India and Nepal, which needs to be fostered over time. Enhance passport and visa application screening to detect forged documents.

Intelligence Cooperation with India: Strengthen intelligence sharing mechanisms with India to identify and neutralize espionage threats.

Training & Capacity Building: Invest in training programs for border security and immigration officials.

Legal Repercussions: Fortify laws related to espionage and illegal border crossings, ensuring strict enforcement.

Diplomatic Engagement with China: Directly address espionage concerns with Chinese authorities.

Public Awareness: Foster a culture of vigilance among citizens, encouraging them to report suspicious activities.


Conclusion:

Addressing Chinese espionage in the India-Nepal region is a complex challenge that requires collaborative efforts, resource sharing, and strategic planning. India, with its advanced capabilities, is in a unique position to assist Nepal in enhancing its defensive mechanisms, ultimately contributing to the security and stability of the region. However, careful consideration of the implementation challenges and diplomatic sensitivities is crucial to the success of these efforts.


References:






(Ms. Annunthra K is a Research officer at C3S. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)

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