Nepal pulls out of BIMSTEC military drill
NEPAL has been a prime target of Indian deep state stratagem to make it a client state after subduing Bhutan and Maldives. Nepal has many a time tried to break the octopus squeeze of India, but due to geographically landlocked position, contiguity and trade dependence, Nepal had to compromise to avoid the wrath of India. So immense was the Indian interference in Nepalese socio-politico and economic affairs that the nation could not adopt a consensus constitution after a decade of political infighting. And when it did adopt a federal, democratic and secular Constitution in 2015, India had instigated Madheshi and Tharu people living in Terai region of Nepal. These proxies created unrest through protests, and India had enforced economic blockade of Nepal in 2015, which resulted in a serious shortages of food, medicines and fuel etc., thus adding to the miseries of Nepalese people.
Indian hegemonic designs and bullying her neighbouring countries is not a new phenomenon. Being landlocked countries Nepal and Bhutan have witnessed extreme forms of diplomatic coercion, whereas other countries of the region face India’s interference and proxy war etc. India faces opposition from Pakistan and now Nepal in SAARC; therefore India is pushing Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral and Economic Cooperation (BIMTEC) for creating alternate arrangement. India is also trying to transform this forum as strategic/defence oriented, therefore first- ever joint Army exercise started in Pune on Monday. However, Nepal declined to be part of the BIMSTEC Military drill. Reportedly, New Delhi has told Kathmandu that its decision is not appropriate and its explanation of internal political pressure is not convincing. Nepal’s decision, conveyed on Friday, has put India and the regional grouping in an embarrassing position, as there is a possibility other regional countries may start thinking along those lines.
Nepal’s decision came just over a week after Kathmandu had hosted a summit of Bimstec countries, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bimstec member states include India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. An army spokesperson said its aim was to enhance Bimstec cooperation in planning and conduct of counter terrorist operations. “The exercise schedule is focused upon learning of best practices, team building & special tactical level operations in a counter-terrorist environment in semi-urban setting.” On Friday, Nepal PM KP Oli had called the Indian ambassador, Manjeev Singh Puri, in Kathmandu and conveyed to him Nepal’s inability to participate in the exercise. The plea taken was that there was criticism in both the Nepali political sphere and in the media on the country’s involvement in the exercise; but Delhi was not happy with the explanation of Nepalese leadership.
Nepal was weary of bullying tactics of India and looked towards China, which is helping Nepal with aid and development. The two countries are also in talks for building a railway link into Nepal, constructing an electric transmission line and are conducting a feasibility study for a free trade agreement. On February 08, 2018, Communist parties had secured an overwhelming majority in the Upper House of Parliament with 39 seats out of 56 seats, paving the way for the Leftist alliance to form the country’s government led by its leader KP Sharma Oli. Earlier, the Left alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre had secured 174 seats in the 275-member Parliament in the country’s historic provincial and parliamentary polls that many hoped would bring much-needed political stability to the Himalayan nation. People of Nepal are valiant and have been resisting India’s hegemonic designs, which India appeared to have realized.
Nepal has finalised the Transit and Transportation Agreement with China, which will allow Kathmandu vital access to Beijing’s sea and land ports. Nepal has reportedly decided to take part in a 12-day long military exercise with China. Nepal Army spokesperson Brig Gen Gokul Bhandaree told The Times of India that the joint exercise with China (Sagarmatha Friendship-2) will take place from 17-28 September in Chengdu and the main focus of the exercise would be counter-terror operations. The agreement said that China had also agreed to allow Nepal use its dry (land) ports at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse as well as roads to these facilities. Commerce ministry official Rabi Shankar Sainju said that Nepali cargo from Japan, South Korea and other north Asian countries could be routed through China which would cut shipping time and costs. Nepal, according to Reuters, seeks to end India’s monopoly over its trading routes by increasing connections with Beijing.
Kathmandu has sought access to Chinese ports to reduce dependence on India since it resorted to prolonged blockade of its border crossings with India in 2015 and 2016, which led to shortages of fuel and medicines for several months. This is not surprising considering Nepal’s prime minister KP Sharma Oli is largely known for his ‘pro-China’ stance. In 2016, when the CPN (Maoist Centre) had pulled their support from Oli’s government, he had blamed India, adding that “the process of government change was not an automatic process but conducted by remote control”. After assuming charge again in 2018, he chose India for his first foreign trip indicating that he wanted to heal the frayed ties. However, ahead of the visit Oli had categorically stated that he wanted to deepen ties with China to get more leverage in his dealings with India in keeping with the times.