Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] India and Nepal are scaling up their ties


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The complex issues present in the Indo-Nepal relationship.


  1. The Indian PM is visiting Nepal from 11-12 May
  2. The back-and-forth visits(of both PMs) indicate that India and Nepal are working towards scaling up their bilateral relationship

What explains the frequent meetings between the premiers of the two countries?

  1. There seems to be a growing recognition in India as well as in Nepal that deterioration in relations between the two countries, with close socio-economic-cultural relations, is not desirable
  2. There is a strong opinion that India is reaching out to Kathmandu because of China’s growing presence in Nepal

Complexities of the relationship

  1. Given Nepal’s power asymmetry with India and China, it should be no surprise that it seeks to swing between the two nations to maintain autonomy
  2. However, from an Indian perspective, it appears that New Delhi has been at the receiving end of considerable animosity
  3. On the other hand, there is a strong opinion in some segments in Nepal on cultivating a robust relationship with China in response to alleged Indian interference in domestic politics
    Railway line project
  4. A railway line to Kathmandu from India was recently announced
  5. Once operationalized, it will significantly enhance the already rich people-to-people interactions
  6. Now, if the Chinese build a railway line to Kathmandu and Indians deliver on their own promise, then it would become a de facto trilateral project
  7. Given the growing trade deficit, the prospect of granting direct and greater market access to China without any reciprocal gestures will raise concerns in India

China and Nepal relationship: The issues

  1. While China does not have people-to-people interactions on a par with India, it has a long history of deploying overseas assistance to Nepal
  2. The Chinese connectivity projects need to overcome two significant limitations
  3. First, their economic viability is contingent on their ability to access the Indian market
  4. Second, they will have to traverse the Terai region, which enjoys a close socio-cultural relationship with India

Will India and China also collaborate to build connectivity projects in Nepal?

  1. It is doubtful at the moment
  2. In addition to traversing the Himalayas, such collaboration would also have to overcome a mountain of distrust
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