News Analysis |
Nepal has traditionally been a key ally for India stretching the cooperation between the two countries in the overlapping domain of economy and defense. As far as the economic ties are concerned, the Indian cooperation started in 1952 with the construction of an air-strip at Gaucharan. Since then, India has been assisting primarily in the areas of infrastructure development and capacity development of human resources in Nepal.
Such assistance received from India has helped supplement the developmental efforts of Nepal. India’s economic assistance to Nepal has grown manifold in the past few decades, particularly since the restoration of multiparty democracy in Nepal in 1990. On Defense side, both the countries are undergoing battalion level bilateral military exercises since past 13 years. But in recent years, Nepal has apparently decided to align its relations with other countries in the proximity, especially China.
It indirectly also causes concern to the United States as it is seeking India assistance to counter the growing regional hegemony of China. It is already looking forward to reintegrating and strengthen ASEAN for this purpose
In the most recent development between the two countries, it is reported that Nepal will carry out a joint military exercise with China next month. The news, which certainly speaks volumes of the broad spectrum strategy China has adopted in recent years where is exploring new avenues both economic and strategic, has taken India off guard as it is already worried about the growing Chinese influence in the region.
While China has always maintained that due to the feasible terrain and cultural ties, Nepal will always remain a natural area of cooperation between both India and China but unfortunately India sees the developments as long-term strategic move on part of China. Nepal is a landlocked country which has been dependent upon India for the trade routes and ports. Since the inclination obviously puts too much at stake for Nepal, it decided to look for an alternative a couple of years back.
In 2016 Nepal’s then Prime Minister, K.P. Sharma Oli, sealed deals with Beijing to use Chinese roads and ports, seeking to reduce Nepal’s dependence on India for trade and transit. Prime Minister Oli’s visit to China in June this year, earned the country bilateral pacts worth $2 billion. The agreements were signed between the government and private companies of Nepal and China to develop hydropower projects, cement industries, and establish highland food parks.
A reasonable portion of Indian freshwater demand is accomplished by Rivers of Terai which originate from Nepal’s share of Himalaya and eventually flow toward India. Bihar and Utter Pradesh, the two populous states of India, are heavily dependent upon these rivers for their water and energy needs. India aims for more dominant control on these rivers for which the leverage it traditionally had, facilitating Nepal for its trade routes, is continuously diminishing with Chinese coming into the equation.
Secondly, an increased Chinese locomotion in Nepal might result in excessive penetration into India due to an open border it shares with Nepal. These are the two main reasons that India is not ready to accept the cooperation between two of its neighbors at the face value and fears a murkier plot in the backdrop.
It indirectly also causes concern to the United States as it is seeking India assistance to counter the growing regional hegemony of China. It is already looking forward to reintegrating and strengthen ASEAN for this purpose. But If India fails to curb the growing Chinese footprint right next to its border in a terrain which has always been its feasible terrain, then ultimately the United States might need to reconsider the approach.