By Ai Jun
“We talked with open heart and both countries found new ground to move forward.” This is how Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, described his just concluded four-day visit to India, his first overseas visit after assuming office. Ironically, it is reported that while Prachanda aimed at rebuilding Kathmandu’s ties with New Delhi, which have experienced a chill over the past years, India was seeking to “claw back ground from China,” which does not sound like a meeting with fully open mind.
During the tenure of Prachanda’s predecessor Khadga Prasad Oli, the India-Nepal relationship witnessed deterioration due to a series of issues including New Delhi’s interference in Nepal’s constitutional amendment and stricter border checks on Nepal’s trucks, which offered Kathmandu a good reason to strengthen ties with Beijing. The two soon inked a number of agreements including extending China’s Tibet railway network to Kathmandu, establishing special economic zones for Chinese companies in Nepal and a long-term petroleum deal for Nepal to import fuel from China. All those have made New Delhi worried.
Nepal’s diplomacy has been marked by a fixed factor – being sandwiched between Beijing and New Delhi. While China has never asked Kathmandu to pick a side, the latter has always felt pressure from India in terms of security and internal affairs. It might not be easy for Nepal to remain unbiased toward the two giant neighbors against such a backdrop. However, if Nepal wants to gain maximum benefit from the situation and thrive, it must not let itself turn into any side’s pawn. Keeping good relations with both China and India is Kathmandu’s optimal choice.
Alarmed by China’s rising influence in Nepal, India is now trying to turn the tables. But such narrow-minded geopolitical logic will do favor to nobody.
Beijing sincerely hopes to help Nepal’s development and in the meantime establish the connection linking China to India as well as Bangladesh. Connectivity among China, South Asia and Southeast Asia is a vital part of the Beijing-led One Belt and One Road initiative, which will promote development and create mutual benefits in the whole region, including Nepal and India.
China also welcomes India’s increasing support to Nepal’s development. If New Delhi insists to see it as Beijing’s attempt to cozy up to Kathmandu, India should at least realize the fact that China’s support to Nepal has stimulated India to increase its assistance to Kathmandu, which means that this is nothing but a healthy competition.
Times have changed, and adhering to the outdated mind-set of scrambling for spheres of influence will not only win no hearts, but also disrupt one’s own development.
Good ties with China, India in Nepal’s best interest
By Ai Jun