Rishi Dhamala: A yam between two boulders was what our founder King Prithvi Narayan Shah said. Nepal is trying to maneuver its way through its two giant neighbors maintaining a policy of cooperation and friendship with both. The new emerging relations of India and China will have an impact and both their policies in Nepal, while the current scenario has both the Nations trying to increase their influence.
Nepal has to make clear and firm choices when it deals with its two giant neighbors that are emerging superpowers of the 21st century, in fact, India is known to be one of the largest markets for foreign direct investment (FDI). China, on the other hand, has superior technical skills and their swiftness in infrastructural development would be an added advantage for Nepal.
Nepal has prioritized its relations with China under its current leadership of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. Having a similar party sharing the same ideology, Nepal-China relations have flourished over the years with high-level exchanges and the much-awaited visit of President Xi Jinping which will be one of the most eye-catching events in recent times for the country. There are heavy preparations underway in order to receive the Chinese President.
Nepal-China recently completed is border opening in Rasuwagadi-Kerung border point furthering economic ties and an assurance that China too wants to see Nepal develop. Back in June 2018, PM Oli had officially visited China at the invitation of Premier Li Kequiang. There were bilateral talks and both were committed toward working for the mutual benefit for one another. Nepal then went on to sign the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), where a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in order for infrastructural development, interconnection, integration, and cultural sharing.
China has also sent teachers to Nepal for teaching the Chinese language included in the curriculum providing a new exposure to education and culture. China has also recently sent its Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a visit to Nepal where various bilateral projects were discussed, and MOU’S were signed. China has prioritized Nepal, and with the visit of President Xi Jinping, there is hope that the relations will strengthen further.
Bilateral relations have not only developed between two nations, but it has taken a step internal through inter-party relations of both Nepal and China. Similarly, underway is the Communist Party of Nepal (NCP) and Chinese Communist Party two day training program of its cadres, with the NCP taking guidance on how to take its party forward. With shared ideologies between the two nations, it is evident that both sides have ideological similarities and sympathize with one another both professional as well as at a personal level.
With the current government drastically improving ties with its northern neighbor it has to similarly look into its closest neighbor, one with which it shares not only bilateral but cultural and ecological relations that have intertwined relations since age-old history. India has stepped up to provide for its Northern neighbor, and although post the earthquake and the unofficial blockade including the dissatisfaction expressed over the constitution of Nepal, situations have demanded that the ties between Nepal and India move forward without looking back with prejudice. Prime Minister Modi visited Nepal 4 times showing his personal love and affection for the Nation no Indian PM has done in the past.
Both India and Nepal have tremendously worked over the past several years. This has shown major results like the recently concluded and in operation Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline which has considerably reduced the burden of transport and increased efficiency in the manifold. Similarly, India’s interest in developing the various hydropower potential of Nepal will benefit both the countries in the long run, in fact, the direct transmission line that has connected the valley has made load shedding a distant memory of the past.
Nepal can play an extremely important role with ties with both of its neighbors. India-China relations although with its ups and downs are seen to be gradually improving. Current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and the President of China Xi Jinping share a personal rapport which on the long run will definitely ensure that both sides are not at odds at each other however complex the situation may be.
While on the one hand India may want to rethink on its policies of the Belt and Road Initiative, China may want to control its activities over India’s north eastern borders. Several skirmishes of the past too have made India and China at uncertain odds, from the banks of Sabarmati when the first informal meeting was held between PM Modi and President Xi, at the banks of the river Sabarmati, PM Modi’s hometown of Gujarat.
India will host President Xi again this time in the coastal city of Mamallapuram in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Both the leaders are expected to deepen their understanding over the region and maintain cordiality as major super powers. The coastal town is in the process of being beautified with heavy landscaping and similar preparations underway.
Nepal must maintain its relations unequivocally with both its neighbors separately and make its stance clear. It will be opportune and in the best interest of Nepal that both its neighbors strengthen their bilateral ties, while our country can play a bigger role of initiating a trilateral relationship. The day hopefully may not be far when Nepal will host both the leaders in a trilateral meeting.
Times are rapidly changing with advancement in every step. Nepal needs to take advantage which its neighbors are willing to provide. India has made visa free travel for Nepalese, and this is one of the biggest advantages, as India as stated earlier is the largest market currently for FDI. There is a hope along with sincerity that our neighbors base their ties less out of competition and more toward collaboration.
I have always said even in my previously written articles, we cannot look back with prejudice. In order to have a successful and developing society we must move forward keeping in mind technology and innovation of our day and age. Nepal will look forward in the coming days with securing its interest and maintaining ties accordingly with both its neighbors who are emerging super powers with developing economics and extensive market size.
(Rishi Dhamala is a Senior Journalist and the President of the Reporters Club of Nepal he also serves as the Chairman of Prime Times Television)