India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is on a two-day official visit to Nepal starting today, 26 November. He is visiting at the invitation of his Nepalese counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla, speaking in fluent Nepali, said on Thursday, 26 November, upon reaching Kathmandu: “I wanted to come here earlier too, but because of COVID, we could not do so… We have a very strong relationship. Our endeavour will be to see how we can take the relationship forward. We have some very good meetings ahead of us.”
India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier announced, “The visit is in continuation of the regular exchange of high-level visits between the two friendly neighbours.”
Shringla has vocalised his intent to take India’s bilateral ties with Nepal forward, six months after the controversy over the Kalapani-Lipulekh border issue and Nepal’s new map.
Back-To-Back High-Level Visits By India To Nepal: What This Means
Reports claim that China’s State Councillor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is scheduled to visit Kathmandu for a day-long visit soon after the Indian foreign secretary completes his visit.
The Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit is amid a widening rift inside the ruling Nepal Communist Party, and on the eve of his visit, large-scale protests in Janakpur and Pokhara, Nepal, broke out, over demands for a return to the monarchic system of governance in the Himalayan nation.
Chinese movement inside Nepal has also surged in recent days.
Harsh Shringla’s visit follows two recent high-level visits from India. Recently, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Chief of the Army Staff, Indian Army, made a three-day visit to Nepal from 4 November. It was the first high-level visit between the two neighbours since a border row affected ties earlier this year. Before that, the chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), Samant Kumar Goel, paid a ‘surprise’ day-long visit to Nepal in the third week of October.
Nepal Caught Between Two Warring Giants
A local saying describes Nepal as “the grass lying between two elephants” – whether they fight or make love, it is the grass that gets trampled. Both India and China – two global giants – have vested interest in Nepal; it is strategically important to both nations.
Nepal is trapped between these two warring giants; high-level visits by both neighbours indicate the surging strategic rivalry between India and China inside Nepal. Both nations want to increase their clout.
China’s growing influence and movement in Nepal has caused consternation within India. India doesn’t want to ruin relations with Nepal that were affected due to the border disputes. China, an emerging global power also doesn’t want to compromise its regional dominance. China wants to dominate the world and India wants to be a regional leader, but China doesn’t want India to take on this strategic dominance.
In its rise to power, China has been keeping an eye on its neighbours, including India.
Chinese Concerns Over India-Nepal Ties
Recently, India and China signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), the agreement that will facilitate the exchange of classified and sensitive information and interoperability of forces.
India also can easily access geospatial data which will be useful in a wide range of military aspects. This pact too seems to have raised concerns in China – the Chinese want to know Nepal’s view and position.
(Brabim Karki is an author and businessman based in Nepal. He has authored two books: ‘Mayur Albatross’ and ‘Osin Fisher’. He tweets @brabim7. He writes op-eds for various local newspapers in Nepal. His articles have also appeared in international media like The Independent, The Diplomat, The Hill Times, and Asia Pacific Daily. His writings can be accessed here. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)