Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] Nepal’s snub shows up Indian coercive powerop-ed snap


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BIMSTEC, SAARC

Mains level: Nepal’s engagement with China in recent times and why it is a cause of concern for India


Nepal drifting away from India

  1. The India-Nepal relationship has seen a number of setbacks in recent times
  2. Nepal’s army did not participate in the joint military drill of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) member-states that is currently underway in Pune
  3. In another widely noted development, the government in Kathmandu has concluded an agreement with China to gain access to Chinese ports, including Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang
  4. In contrast, the Nepalese army is preparing to leave for a 12-day military exercise with China in Chengdu later this month

What’s brewing in Nepal?

  1. These developments can be seen as Nepal’s legitimate response to India’s economic blockade of the land-locked nation in 2015-16
  2. Nepal’s desire to get access to alternative ports is eminently understandable in this context
  3. Its abrupt withdrawal from the Bimstec military exercise caused significant diplomatic embarrassment for India, which is trying to project the regional grouping as an alternative to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
  4. Nepal PM’s decisions seems to be a straight pick from Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s playbook
  5. Yameen, who doesn’t hesitate to allow Chinese warships to dock in Malé, had earlier asked India to take back its naval helicopters

Is China a feasible option for Nepal?

  1. While Nepal will have alternative trade routes via China, those will not be competitive against the Kolkata port given the geography, distance and cost involved in sending goods via Chinese ports
  2. China cannot substitute for India in Nepal
  3. India has an open border with Nepal and Nepalese citizens work in India, marry Indians and serve in the Indian Army

Way forward for India

  1. India needs to develop sharper instruments to coerce hostile leadership in the neighbourhood
  2. The blockade was a blunt instrument which caused substantial harm to the common people
  3. The recent engagement with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepal’s former prime minister and current ally of Oli, is a step in the right direction

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