By Xu Liping
Indian media reported recently that Nepal would hold its first ever joint military exercise with China on February 10, 2017. Indian media said the joint military exercise appeared unconventional. But so far the news has not been officially confirmed by China and Nepal.
Indian media hyping up China-Nepal joint military exercise is to partly put pressure on Nepal. India views South Asian countries as its backyard. So it pays a lot of attention to these countries’ cooperation with those outside the region, especially in security.
India’s concern for Sino-Nepalese cooperation is largely due to its worry about China’s influence in Nepal, which boasts a very important geographical position. China and Nepal share a border – the Himalayas. India believes that if China were to break through the Himalayas and have presence in Nepal, China can exert direct influence on the South Asian subcontinent. This will pose a huge threat to India and its South Asian strategy. However, the bilateral cooperation between China and Nepal is for protecting national interests and is not directed against any third party. Indian officials, media and academic circles should not read too much into the two countries’ security cooperation.
Owing to historic reasons, India and Nepal are highly interdependent in economic, culture, security and politics. It cannot be ignored that India’s influences on Nepal is profound.
However, it is neither realistic nor possible for India to always regard Nepal as its backyard and put pressure on Sino-Nepalese cooperation. First, the regional situation in South Asia has changed with the development of regional integration. Southeast Asian integration has advanced steadily while the integration of South Asia is lagging behind. South Asia has high demands for integration, but India alone is unable to promote integration. In this context, it is inevitable for countries outside the region to aid the integration in the area.
Most countries in this region are developing countries. Economic development and livelihood improvement are their priorities. China’s One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative and its economic development can meet these countries’ demands, prompting their cooperation with China.
In addition, multilateral cooperation is a trend in South Asia. Now the region has seen cooperation mechanisms such as the BRICS and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. In the future, South Asia will welcome more cooperation mechanisms. India should understand and adapt to this trend.
If the Sino-Nepalese joint military exercise is implemented, this will enhance bilateral relations. Security cooperation can strengthen political mutual trust and promote bilateral cooperation. In the future, Nepal and China may establish normalized and institutionalized security framework. Meanwhile, the Sino-Nepalese relationship can set a good example for surrounding countries, thus further enhancing China’s cooperation with countries in South Asia.
Sino-Nepalese cooperation conforms to the trend of integration and bilateral interests. Although some people in India are sensitive to this military exercise, the bilateral cooperation can promote future partnership in security. After opening the window for security cooperation, the road for bilateral collaboration will become wider. When India realizes it is not targeted by such cooperation, it will be more active in bilateral and trilateral cooperation, helping it to solve problems such as terrorism.
India-Nepal relations should head in a more pragmatic direction instead of being limited by Cold-War thinking. Meanwhile, India, as a regional power, should be more open to security and economic cooperation between South Asian countries and countries outside the region. This does not conflict with India’s interests, but is good for peace and stability in South Asia.
(The author is a senior fellow of the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. firstname.lastname@example.org)
India should be more open for Sino-Nepalese cooperation
By Xu Liping