Although not officially stated, ‘Nepal’s last minute decision to withdraw from the joint military exercise in Pune, India has irked New Delhi’, claim Indian media. Nepal government has denied the accusation, according to a report in Kathmandu Post.
Nepal and India have been long time allies, however, the relationships between the two have been deteriorating. The deterioration is attributed to the 9 month long ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by the Indian government along the nation’s southern border. The ‘blockade’ led to a severe economic and humanitarian crisis, as essential supplies (fuel, medicines) were in shortage. India, however denied they imposed the blockade, stating the shortage were owing to the Madheshi protests along the Terai belt. However, reports showing ‘minimal border crossings at areas with no Madhesi agitation’ proved that the blockade was indeed imposed by the Indian government.
In the wake of the blockade, Nepal looked to its northern neighbour, and in an attempt to prevent a similar crisis in the future, started opening dialogues with China to allow them using their land/sea ports for trade with other countries. That, in the form of ‘Transit and Transport Agreement’ was agreed upon on 7th September, and Nepal was allowed to use four sea and three land ports of China for trade with other countries, thus ending Nepal’s monopolistic reliance on India for trade with third party countries.
‘That, and Nepal’s last minute withdrawal from the joint military exercise of BIMSTEC countries has not sit well with India’, as per Indian media. According to Times of India, Nepal’s decision to participate in Sagarmatha Friendship 2, a 12 day joint military drill in Chengdu, has added ‘insult to injury’.
The TOI article quotes former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal saying that ‘Nepal’s participation in the BIMSTEC drill would have balanced the drill with China, and that Nepal should not provoke India needlessly’. He goes on to warn the nation that ‘the cost will be felt when Nepal faces a crisis in the future.
The Nepalese government refuted the claim stating that they have received no official word from ‘New Delhi’. However, it is certain, Nepal is determined to please the north.