The Dragon & The Elephant

Chinese president Xi will arrive in Kathmandu en route to the Indian capital Delhi where he is due to take part in the summit of a grouping called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

April 22, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.9 No 19, April 22,2016 (Baisakh 10,2073)

 According to reports, Chinese president Xi Jiping is slated to visit Nepal towards the end of this year. There has been no official announcement yet but officials say the top level visit from Nepal's northern neighbor is almost certain to take place ahead of a multi-continent event in the country's southern neighbor, India. Chinese president Xi will arrive in Kathmandu en route to the Indian capital Delhi where he is due to take part in the summit of a grouping called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

When president Xi comes a visiting, this will be the first at the head of state level from Nepal's second closest neighbor in 20 years.  Much wind has blown across the Himalayas since king Birendra hosted president Jiang Zemin in 1996. The Chinese president will now have a president of a young republic as his counterpart not a king of a centuries-old monarchy.

If  the last visit of the highest dignitary happened to take place seven years after Nepal was subjected to a torturous economic embargo by India, this time it will be taking place less than a year after a similar, but more brutal,  strangulation of the land-locked nation.

The timing of the event this time around will surely add interest and significance. In the backdrop of the economic embargo on Nepal by China's regional rival, India, the communist nation has recently agreed on a series of measures to boost the infrastructures including building and developing road and rail networks in Nepal, besides seeking to link some of them with its regions bordering Nepal's northern neighbor.

The new Beijing-Kathmandu development, coming as it did after Delhi's arms-twisting of its small neighbor, has caused a lot of consternations in the Indian capital. President Xi will be visiting Nepal even as speculations have been rife over possible retaliation from Nepal's most important neighbor in the south. There have been talks linking the announcement of fresh anti-government street agitations in Kathmandu by disgruntled outfits with Delhi's displeasure with Kathmandu, after a similar stand-off over the promulgation of the new constitution.

Some rule out shadow boxing of Nepal's two big neighbors in the Kathmandu ring. They point out that president Xi, going by the reports, will visit Nepal on his way to take part in the BRICS summit in India which is also seeking to become a formal member of the China-initiated Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  But as Liu Zongyi wrote in the Global Times of China, "while India is strengthening cooperation with China and Russia, it has also reinforced its ties with Western world especially in security cooperation." 

It is the security that has traditionally dominated India's policies on Nepal. Justified or not, Indian security concerns in the region including Nepal have instead of lessening increased in recent years.  This is drawing it to an alliance with the United States whose 'contain China' policy is not a secret.  Referring to the recent visit of the US defense secretary Ashton Carter to India, Liu writes that  "the in-principle logistics deal reached between Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in fact is drawing the US and India into an undeclared military alliance."

The impending visit of Nepal by the most powerful man of China is therefore expected to have a dimension that transcends the Himalayan borders between the two countries.

Abijit Sharma

Abijit Sharma

SHARMA is Associate Editor of New Spotlight News Magazine.

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