Nepal has announced that it will not be sending its soldiers for the first-ever Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) anti-terror military exercise to be held in Pune from September 10 to 16, as reported by Times of India.
Nepal has sent only three “observers” for the “Milex-2018” exercise being hosted by India, which will witness platoon-size contingents (over 30 soldiers each) from other Bimstec countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Thailand, in turn, will also be sending only observers due to “prior commitments”.
It was learnt that Nepal army chief General Purna Chandra Thapa was also scheduled to attend the closing ceremony of the drill however that too has been cancelled.
Kundan Aryal, press adviser to PM KP Sharma Oli, was quoted on Saturday, confirming that,
“Nepal will not participate in the Bimstec joint military drill. This is the official decision of the government”.
The Oli government is widely being perceived as pro-China and has gone ahead and taken this decision, after strong opposition from various quarters, including some from within the party. Foreign minister of Nepal, Pradip Kumar Gyawali had earlier confirmed in the week, that there were neither discussions whatsoever nor any agreement over the military exercise during the 4th Bimstec Summit in Kathmandu on 30th and 31st August. He stated,
“Bimstec is purely a developmental forum among the seven member countries, which does not prioritize military exercises.”
Indian PM Modi had proposed to host joint military exercise in India in the second week of September, during his address at the inaugural session of the summit. However, Gyawali later snubbed the proposal and said,
“India was free to float the agenda, but we did not endorse it.”
The foundation of friendship between India and Nepal was laid with Indo-Nepalese friendship treaty in 1950.
The growing security ties between China and Nepal also comes in the wake of growing commercial and economic linkages as well. China has pumped in more than $8 billion in investments in Nepal last year and overtook India as the biggest foreign investor three years ago.
However, 2018-19 being a general election year in India, PM Modi will want to demonstrate clear successes in his neighbourhood approach. But unless India strengthens its delivery capacity, New Delhi is bound to continue to lose to China, as reported by The Diplomat. Ultimately, irrespective of what India’s neighbours do with China in the economic or military domains, New Delhi’s surest bet to shore up ties with these countries is to focus on shoring up its own reputation as a provider of security and prosperity.
How far can India succeed, can only be established in the months to come.