Nepal’s Ties With India, China




Madhavji Shrestha


Balance of relations with the two big neighbors India and China is much talked about. This diplomatic approach is also touted by both leading politicians and experts. However, all the pleaders have so far failed to clearly explain how far and in what way the balance between the two should go. There is no weighing box to gauge the balance in its true sense. If anyone interested in figuring out the true picture of the balance of relations could contribute significantly, he should be respected as honestly serving the country with sincere heart of patriotism. To what extent and to how much degree Nepal’s foreign policy and diplomacy should move onward?


As the years and decades have gone by in our dealings with the immediate neighbours, the facts and occurrence of diplomatic events are now becoming more and more revealing, and as a consequence, the evolution of relations with both neighbors has nudged realistic thinkers and analysers to delve into the nature and dimensions of Nepal’s neighbourly relations. What they wish for is that the policy makers and its true executers need to ditch into various layers of Nepal’s relations with India and China, because the phenomenal trend of development in framing and implementing foreign policy and using its major tool of diplomacy needs to become both empirical and experimental with the relevant interest groups and lobbying groups playing effective roles. But the reverse is happening with the self- interest group grabbing opportunities in materialising what they want to obtain as their pie. 


Frequent changes of government in Nepal and their impact on the conduct of its policy towards two giant neighbors have visibly affected relations with them. It is within the fresh memory of the Nepal society how the erstwhile government led by K.P. Oli was compelled to move closer to the government of China as the undeclared Indian trade and economic blockade forced him to do so with no alternative choice left. Had not there been the Indian blockade, it could be taken for sure that he would not inch towards the northern giant. It is true that he was tossed by blowing political typhoon. Soon he was ousted from power and as a result, the current government has been lodged in the political throne of Nepal. The show of this political gaming is evident from the political events that have been much perceptibly influenced and goaded by the southern giant. The result is that the balance of relations with the two neighbors could not be maintained with the clear evidence of the outside influence on the internal politics of Nepal.


Foreign policy experts argue that the foreign policy of the government is generally considered as the extension of the domestic policy. But if observed carefully, the foreign policy of Nepal and especially with regards to its policy towards India and China is, in fact, the product of the domestic politics rather than of any projected and visionary foreign policy formulated along with far-sightedness in long term interest of nation. That is why this writer believes that Nepal’s foreign policy is not necessarily the extension of domestic policy but indeed it is the byproduct of frequently changing domestic politics, whether be that the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy, or appointment of ambassadors. The recent events give an example of numerous evidences before the commoners.


The current government took the rein of the government in August 2016 and Prime Minister Puspha Kamal Dahal “ Prachanda” immediately paid an official visit to India in September. A joint press statement of 15 points was issued with some substantive matters of cooperation and joint approach enshrined therein, however, the statement attracted criticisms from various walks of life of the Nepali society.


In March this year the same Prime Minister paid a visit to China and met with President Xi Jinping soon after addressing the annual conference of Boao Forum for Asia. The visit to China does not signal as a visit of visible substance, because it could not produce any measurable and significant outcome except the contacts at the high political level followed by some discussion on bilateral relations with no concrete achievement to show off to the general public. It is evident that the balance of relations is nowhere to be seen. In the name of balance, imbalance is moving through.


How to display true aspect of the balance is a question much debated and discussed.

The meeting between the Nepali EPG and Indian EPG is proceeding in its own way. The current government of Nepal is apparently showing a lukewarm support towards the EPG of Nepal. Its third meeting has been already completed ant the next one is scheduled to be held in Deharadun of India in the last week of May 2017. The purpose of the EPG meetings is to examine and review the entire terrain of Nepal-India bilateral relations including the Treaty of Peace and Friendship concluded in July of 1950, and the groups are tasked to finally make some viable recommendations to their respective governments. This move to reform and improve the bilateral relations between Nepal and India seems good in so far it can contribute to attain its purpose.


However, initiative with regards to China is nowhere on the cards. Even the reviewing and revisiting the Treaty of Peace and Friendship with China of April 1960 has remained almost eclipsed, although some initiative to update the Treaty appeared in the discussion of the diplomatic circles and the media more than 8 years ago. Thus imbalance is now looking evident relating to Nepal’s relations with India and China with tilt towards the south. In fact, the crux of bilateral relations with them is not just the balance of relations, but rather it has signaled imbalance, which is not liked by the right thinking persons.

What is needed is to make serious study and in-depth analysis on balance of interest and weighing of the security sensitivities vis-a-vis Nepal’s bilateral relations with both. Efforts on the part of Nepal must be centered and concentrated on the enduring stance with long term view by taking into cognizance of development of the politico-economic and security perceptions for many more decades to come. If Nepal could proceed well in respects of their interests and security sensitivities, a much balanced relations with both could be maintained. If not, the talks of balance of relations will remain only merely empty with no substantial perspectives emerging on the scenes of Nepal’s relations with big neighbors. So the fundamental question is not the balance of relations but truly it is the concern of recognising and realising of balance of interests with their security sensitivities minutely taken care of.

Meanwhile, the paramount importance of interests of Nepal needs to be well considered to fulfill its people’s desires and aspirations for the equitable socio-economic uplift and their safety and the sacrosanct duty towards their security from the unwanted outside interference. The people of Nepal feel proud of their country as the oldest nation- state in the entire South Asian region. They feel proud too how their ancestors and fore- fathers struggled hard to save Nepal’s sovereign entity with their blood and sweat for the posterity of Nepal.


However, Nepal perceptibly lacks very efficient and capable organisation to make very profound study on the question of arriving at the varied aspects of Nepal’s long term interests in politico-economic dimension and security perception. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have any reliable wing to make a very reliable dent in this direction, nor is there any worthy organisation outside the government of Nepal. In the absence of such vital organisation, how Nepal and its foreign policy framers and executers would be in a position to clearly understand and realise the vivid ramifications of the balance of interests and weighing of security sensitivities in their true perspectives closely related to Nepal’s national interests and sensitivities?



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