Caught in the crossfire of rival powers, Nepal’s Deuba heads for India on Friday


New Delhi, April 1: Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s three day visit to India starting Friday will be keenly watched by both China and the US. With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict leading to major shifts in geopolitical thrusts between the US and China, Nepal can expect intensification of big-power politics, analysts told India Narrative.

China has been open about its concern as Kathmandu ratified the US led Millennium Challenge Corporation’s $500 million grant last month. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s just concluded Nepal visit has also failed to strike the necessary chord between Beijing and Kathmandu, as many eyebrows were raised after the issue of the much-hyped Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) failed to get any mention in the latter’s official statement.

The Annapurna Express said that while China understands that Kathmandu cannot afford to have bad relations with India, “what it does not want is for Nepal to enter what it labels the ‘US-India nexus’ and thereby compromise Chinese security interests.”

Even as it is almost customary for all Nepali prime ministers to make New Delhi their first foreign stopover after assuming office, Deuba’s so-called ritualistic visit has naturally led to unprecedented scrutiny amid changing geopolitical order.

“The United States, in the context of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, will most likely devote more attention to smaller countries in South Asia like Nepal as part of its efforts to counter-blance China,” Bhaskar Koirala, Director of the Nepal Institute of International and Strategic Studies told India Narrative in an emailed interview.

Nepali Times said that Deuba’s main goal in New Delhi this time will be to restore Nepal-India relations to a more even keel though several thorny areas remain. Issues relating to two-way air routes, exports of surplus hydropower and border embankments continue to create “some kind of discord” between the two neighbours that share an open border policy.

Koirala said that border issues between India and Nepal can be resolved “without any doubt but a modus operandi must be defined and then it is important to adhere to it.”

“The problem is that domestic politics in both countries militates against this ideal possibility. Festering border disputes between Nepal and India create significant anomalies in other areas of the bilateral relationship, hindering overall progress and development of friendly ties between Nepal and India and creating a range of negative externalities,” he said.

Foreign policy watchers also said that the timing of Deuba’s visit is critical. Though Deuba was slated to visit India in January-the trip was postponed due to the surge in Covid 19 cases, his tour comes close on the heels of the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to both New Delhi and Kathmandu.

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