This is a guest blog by Harmanpreet.
India-Nepal share a special relationship since independence as both the countries share common culture, open borders, people to people contacts and same facilities in each other’s country. Being a land locked country, Nepal was always dependent on India for trade with other countries and basic supplies like fuel, medicines etc. The relations between both the countries have gone through a lot of ups and downs but still they had managed to have good, cordial relations till the first decade of the 21st Century. India considered Nepal as a part of India’s northern security system and as a buffer state between India and China. Being part of India’s northern security system, Nepal was always under India’s influence and India did intervene in Nepal’s internal matters, without arousing much public resentment. Things started changing in 2008 when monarchy was abolished in Nepal and it became a democratic republic.
Communist party of Nepal under the leadership of K.P.Oli came into power and a constituent assembly was established to write the constitution of Nepal. India opposed Nepal’s new constitution in 2015 and relations between both the countries strained. Nepalese resented India’s interference in their internal matters.
Communist party od Nepal mustered support of people as Communist party of Nepal was always against India for its intervention in its internal matters.
Traditionally China never shared border with Nepal. It is only in 1950 when China invaded Tibet and made it a part that China started sharing border with Nepal. China-Nepal relations were good during the 20th Century but had a lot of limitations. Himalayas were a natural barrier between China and Nepal relations. With technological advancements and Chinese capabilities to make infrastructure in rugged terrain, the significance of this barrier is diminishing. As Robert Kaplan wrote of the “Flattening Himalayas” and “Defeat of Distance” in his book “Revenge of Geography”.
Since the change of guard in Nepal from monarchy to democracy and with the reign of Nepal in the hands of Communist Party, Nepal under the leadership of K.P.Oli there is a drastic shift in the relations between Nepal and China. K.P.Oli was always pro-China. The 2015 Nepal blockade by India gave him a legitimate reason to shift towards China. During Nepal’s blockade Nepal was short of supplies and Nepal was in dire need of help. China came forward to rescue Nepal from the crisis. China not only helped Nepal but also got a long-term commitment from Nepal in its favour. After that Nepal officially joined BRI and China’s investment in Nepal increased. Recently China has agreed to build a road from Tibet to Kathmandu to facilitate its trade and provided sea- port access to Nepal to trade with other countries (Please refer to this report: https://sputniknews.com/asia/201809071067833203-china-opens-ports-for-nepal/). Nepal has also made Chinese language compulsory in many Nepalese schools.
Future of India-Nepal-China Relations
India and Nepal relations are going through a lot of troubles. The genesis of this trouble lies in India’s non serious approach to Nepalese resentment against Indian big brotherly behaviour, non-serious efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Nepalese and no efforts to have good relations with the Communist Party of Nepal. India has its own advantages as geography is in India’s favour and the way India can help, China cannot. After joining BRI Nepalese are very cautious and they do not want to fall in China’s debt trap. This has provided India with an opportunity to learn from its mistakes and adopt appropriate policy to win back what we have lost.
China-Nepal relations are in its initial stages and everything is going smooth. It will be interesting to see in the future when China starts to assertively make uncomfortable demands to please China.
India-China relations in the future will be as usual okay but filled with suspicion, mistrust and uncertainty.