BEIJING: Even before he reached Kathmandu on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping spelt out what he intended to do during his Nepal visit. Some of what he said has implications for India’s influence in Nepal.
China’s expectations of Nepal go beyond infrastructure construction and cover areas like military exchanges, border protection and training of government personnel. “We need to scale up border defence contacts to fight transnational crimes more effectively and ensure the safety of our nationals and smooth flow of trade,” Xi said in a signed article published in Nepalese media.
“We also need to strengthen practical cooperation in mil-to-mil visits, personnel training and equipment and technologies,” he said, apparently referring to military exchanges. Xi said Nepal and China are working to build or upgrade highways, airports and power plants. “A trans-Himalayan network is thus taking shape which will serve not just our two countries but also the region as a whole.”
While China might seek to enhance its influence with Nepal, the moves would mean a reduction in Indian influence in the Himalayan kingdom. China’s push into Nepal would also mean a sharp reduction in business opportunities for Indian construction companies and exporters.
Xi said Nepal and China should “draw up a blueprint for a bilateral relationship in the new era”. This would mean an increase in high-level exchanges and sharing of governance experiences. Xi made a pointed reference to the fact that Nepal makes efforts to maintain the “one-China policy and prohibits any force from using its territory for anti-China activities”.
Nepal keeps a close watch on its Tibetan population and tries to detain political dissenters and supporters of the Dalai Lama who have fled from China and taken refuge in the Himalayan republic. Beijing is now trying to get Kathmandu to sign an extradition treaty that would allow Nepali authorities to hand over such dissenters to China.
“China firmly supports Nepal in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and in pursuing a development path tailored to its national reality,” Xi said in the article.
In Beijing, meanwhile, a statement released by the official news agency Xinhua after President Xi’s visit to India focused on the need for better linkages between the two major civilisations. There was hardly any mention of their differences or business relationship.
Discussing the meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese president in Chennai, the statement said, “The two leaders agreed that China and India should respect and learn from each other so as to jointly achieve common development and prosperity, as well as the great rejuvenation of the two civilisations.”