Between 5.45 pm and 11.45 pm everyday, Chinese radio hosts broadcast a rich blend of multi-lingual news, political commentary, cultural talk shows and Mandarin classes across Nepal, which ripple into Indian homes along the border, from Ladakh in the north to Bihar’s Sitamarhi in the east.
The programmes have heightened concerns in Delhi, as India remains locked in a territorial standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, prompting the I&B ministry to urgently recast programmes by All-India Radio and enhancing their reach.
In pockets with weak Indian signals, listeners are greeted by Chinese radio with its growing Nepali network. Along a nebulous border, Chinese radio and television could do the job of enhancing China’s influence, India fears.
After high-level discussions last week between information secretary Uday Kumar Varma, officials from the National Security Adviser’s office and the home ministry, it was decided that a “course correction” was needed to match the broadcast blizzard. An inter-ministerial panel will oversee the plans.
Apart from reshaping content, in line with India’s national ethos, the I&B ministry will install several more high-power transmitters for wider reach. The ministry has nearly Rs. 400 crore to jack up networks, Varma said.
Amid growing Chinese engagement with Nepal’s ruling elite, its China Radio International (CRI), three years ago, acquired “downlink” permission to rebroadcast its programmes across Nepal, in Nepali, Chinese and English. CRI now has a Kathmandu bureau staffed by locals, its programmes re-relayed by over 200 smaller Nepali FM stations.