Will Indian Foreign Secretary’s Nepal Visit Help Heal Past Wounds?

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India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is on a two-day official visit to Nepal starting today, 26 November. He is visiting at the invitation of his Nepalese counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal.

India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier announced, “The visit is in continuation of the regular exchange of high-level visits between the two friendly neighbours.”

Shringla has vocalised his intent to take India’s bilateral ties with Nepal forward, six months after the controversy over the Kalapani-Lipulekh border issue and Nepal’s new map.

Reports claim that China’s State Councillor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe is scheduled to visit Kathmandu for a day-long visit soon after the Indian foreign secretary completes his visit.

Chinese movement inside Nepal has also surged in recent days.

Harsh Shringla’s visit follows two recent high-level visits from India. Recently, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Chief of the Army Staff, Indian Army, made a three-day visit to Nepal from 4 November. It was the first high-level visit between the two neighbours since a border row affected ties earlier this year. Before that, the chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), Samant Kumar Goel, paid a ‘surprise’ day-long visit to Nepal in the third week of October.

A local saying describes Nepal as “the grass lying between two elephants” – whether they fight or make love, it is the grass that gets trampled. Both India and China – two global giants – have vested interest in Nepal; it is strategically important to both nations.

China’s growing influence and movement in Nepal has caused consternation within India. India doesn’t want to ruin relations with Nepal that were affected due to the border disputes. China, an emerging global power also doesn’t want to compromise its regional dominance. China wants to dominate the world and India wants to be a regional leader, but China doesn’t want India to take on this strategic dominance.

In its rise to power, China has been keeping an eye on its neighbours, including India.

Recently, India and China signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), the agreement that will facilitate the exchange of classified and sensitive information and interoperability of forces.

India also can easily access geospatial data which will be useful in a wide range of military aspects. This pact too seems to have raised concerns in China – the Chinese want to know Nepal’s view and position.

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