Even though Nepal has spent a substantial amount of time under India’s influence, Kathmandu has been forging stronger economic ties with China. Amidst a series of diplomatic visits among all three nations, Nepal finds itself in a very awkward situation while Beijing and India face off in a heated border dispute with no end in sight.
Chinese and Indian armies are currently facing each other at a standstill on the disputed Doklam Plateau. It all started in June when India’s army moved into the region to expel a Chinese construction crew building a road that would give Beijing more influence in the region than India was willing to allow.
Moving forward, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang will kick off a 4-day visit to Kathmandu August 28. Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba will visit India between August 23 and 27. Afterward, Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara will visit Beijing.
And while Nepal has taken an official stance to not interfere in the China-India affair, it would be hard to shake off the elephant in the room during these high profile meetings.
China’s push into the Doklam region comes amid its ambitious projects to expand trade with Asia and beyond via the massive Belt and Road initiative — a project India has refused to take part in.
Meanwhile, Nepal is set to take part in that initiative via the construction of China-funded infrastructure in Nepal — likely a topic of discussion during Wang’s visit.
Later this month, China is set to extend its optical fiber network into Nepal ending India’s dominance of Internet services there.
As Kathmandu moves forward with these projects, it will be crossing a tightrope in trying to not give some sway in the China-India border matter.
“Unlike Singapore, which has played a key role of balancing the rivalry between China and the U.S., South Asian countries like Nepal have so far been powerless in doing anything to mediate the China-India conflict,” said Pang Zhongying, dean of Ocean University in Qingdao, in an interview with the South China Morning Post.