Amid Doklam standoff, Sushma Swaraj to visit Nepal
Sushma Swaraj will travel to Nepal to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).india Updated: Aug 08, 2017 15:36 IST
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Nepal to attend a multilateral event on Thursday, days before the Himalayan country will host Chinese vice premier Wang Yang at a time when Beijing is locked in a border standoff with New Delhi at Doklam in Sikkim and has been seeking greater ties with Kathmandu.
Swaraj, who will take up a foreign travel after many months, will be attending the 15th meeting of foreign ministers of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and also interact with the Nepalese leadership.
“India and Nepal enjoy a very close relationship. When an Indian leader visits Nepal, they discuss all key bilateral and regional issues,” said an Indian official.
Both the Asian neighbours would also like to get the support of Nepal at this juncture as the border standoff enters the second month.
And Swaraj’s visit comes days ahead of Nepal playing the host to Wang, one of the four vice premiers of China, on August 14. Wang is a high-ranking Chinese politician and also a member of the politburo the Chinese Communist Party. He has been tasked with improving ties with Nepal in all the spheres.
Beijing has been reaching out to many political parties in Nepal in recent times in an apparent bid to make ties with China a matter of political consensus. China could also be sensing an opportunity in the anti-India sentiments at play not so long ago in Nepal.
China has been using its economic clout for a greater influence on Nepal, especially on issues of connectivity and energy cooperation. Nepal has been an active participant of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s one road, one belt initiative which India boycotted over sovereignty concerns. An important project of this initiative, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through the Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Soon after Swaraj’s trip, Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba will begin a five-day state visit to India on August 23, his first foreign trip after being elected to the post two months ago. Nepal foreign minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara is also likely to visit India at the invitation of Swaraj at an early date.
But, by and large, Nepal has been mindful of Indian concerns. Prime Minister Deuba is another opportunity for India to stress on his close ties with Nepal, at a time when Beijing’s money does do some talking in its ties with Nepal.
On Monday, Mahara said Nepal wants a peaceful resolution of the military standoff between India and China and does not “support any of our neighbours in this case”.
“Nepal does not want to be dragged into the boundary dispute between India and China ... Both of our big neighbours should maintain cordial relations through peaceful diplomacy and dialogue,” Mahara said.
“We do not support any outcome that comes out of war,” he also said, adding that there was no pressure on Nepal from India or China.
Indian and Chinese diplomats are regularly meeting Nepali officials and diplomats in Kathmandu, New Delhi and Beijing to get their support, but Nepal has been maintaining an “equidistance” on the issue.