Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia sharing its borders with China in the north and India on three other sides. The country is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian Siliguri Corridor. The Indian state of Sikkim separates Nepal from Bhutan. Located in the Central Himalayas, Nepal is home to the Mount Everest, world’s highest mountain. Being situated between the countries which are rising to new heights of development and prominence in the contemporary world, Nepal is of humongous significance to both the countries.
India and China have always tried to make significant progress with Nepal in different arenas for the advancement of the respective countries but have also put a lot of zeal and effort in not disrupting the relations among each other. China has tried to implement trilateral co-operation in the economic field between India, Nepal and itself but India is not ready to accept this proposal and its officials have drawn a veil of silence over this issue.
Significance of Nepal for India
Nepal has a special significance in India’s foreign policy because of the historical, geographical, cultural and economic ties that span over centuries. The religious similarity is also present. The roots of Buddhism and Hinduism can be discovered in both nations which has led to the amalgamation of its citizens. Both the countries share an open border and unhindered movement of people across it. Nepal shares border with 5 Indian states which are Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal and Bihar. Nepal holds important strategic position in India’s national security. It acts as a buffer state against any of possible aggression from China. The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 forms the bedrock of the special relations that exist between the two countries now.
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Rivers of Nepal pour voluminous amount of water to the Indian perennial rivers. So apart from holding a prominent position in India’s economic and political forefront, it is noteworthy for India in the geographical spectrum. India is also the largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments, in addition to providing transit for almost the entire third world country trade for Nepal. India is also the largest exporter of petroleum products and Nepal is one of the reliable export markets. MOU’s have been signed between both the governments for laying electric rail track linking Kathmandu with Raxaul in India.
India is holding a vision to develop inland waterways for the movement of cargo within the framework of trade and transit schema, providing additional access to sea for Nepal. The Gorkha regiments of Indian army also consist of the recruits from hill districts of Nepal. Both the nations together man the Tibet border. India also has signed the three sister-city arrangements for twinning of Kathmandu-Varanasi, Lumbini-Bodhgaya and Janakpur-Ayodhya. Nepal and India also share many multi-lateral forums such as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) NAM, and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) etc. India should promote hydropower co-operation. Recently, Cabinet has approved Rs.1236 crore investments for Arun-3 hydro project. The project will provide surplus power to strengthen India’s economic linkages with Nepal.
Significance of Nepal for China
The bilateral relations between Nepal and China has been friendly and is characterized by the Sino-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed on April 28, 1960 by the two countries. Relations between Nepal and China got a boost when both countries solved all border disputes along the China–Nepal border by signing the Sino-Nepal boundary agreement on March 21, 1960. The government of both Nepal and China ratified the border agreement treaty on October 5, 1961. China has been making an effort to gain entry into SAARC, and Nepal has continuously backed and supported the proposal to include China as a member in the regional grouping.
In 2017, 41 percent of Chinese imports came by air (to Kathmandu) and by land from Tibet.”. The $45 million upgrade for roads in the Nepalese capital is one of the several projects taken up by the Chinese government. The Himalayan mountain range has for years served as a natural barrier which has prompted Nepal to trade more across its flat border with India. But in recent years, China had been funding Nepal with power plants, noodle factories and meat-processing units. In terms of trade between the two countries, Nepal’s commerce with China has outpaced that with India by 17 times since 2006.
On October 27,2019 Himalaya Airlines — a China-Nepal joint venture — landed its maiden flight from Kathmandu to Beijing’s brand new Daxing international airport. Chinese President has also remarked that China and Nepal would sharpen their focus on connectivity encompassing such vital components as ports, roads, railways, aviation and communications within the overarching framework of trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network. The two countries nailed a cross-border railway project between Tibet and Nepal as a top priority item. Besides, the Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway project, which would extend the railway close to the Indian border, would also be expedited. The expansion of air connectivity follows a revised air services agreement between the two countries, signed in July. Under the new arrangement, Nepali airlines would be able to access five new Chinese destinations this year, and three more in 2020. The new airline hopes to tap into the tourism industry, anticipating the arrival of 40,000 Chinese passengers, especially from north China, to Nepal, every year, along this route. These new developments which are forming the basis of the fundamental relations between the two countries encompasses the need of Nepal for China.
For Nepal, the BRI(Belt Road Initiative) is a potential lifeline. A landlocked nation long dependent on India’s favor sees a planned Chinese rail route across the mountains, begun in 2013, as an economic boom and a vital counterweight against India’s economic power. In April, China officially included the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multidimensional Connectivity Network in its joint communiqué of the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Deals inked during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Nepal may push the project forward, giving Nepal, previously hemmed in by India, far better options.
Chinese banks have also opened in Nepal and the two-way trade between the two neighbors is at the ratio of 45:1, heavily tilted in Beijing’s favor. China is the single largest FDI source for Nepal, and its presence can be felt but in substantive arenas, like cement, airports, roads, transmission lines, railway, optical fibre network. China’s economic involvement in Nepal is significant. China and Nepal also held joint military exercises for the first time, and Beijing is supplying arms and equipment to the Nepalese side. These arguments show that Nepal holds a place of special prominence in China’s dictionary.
So both the giant nations are trying to exercise their influence in the landlocked region and are trying to take an upper hand. But which country will be able to actively participate and collaborate with the actions of Nepal and become its more significant neighbor is stored in the years to come. Till then if the weights in the scales become more heavy on one side and Nepal starts to favor that country the other will leave no stone unturned to restore the balance in power.
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