At a time when India and China are perceived to be locked in battle for supremacy in Nepal, both big neighbours of the small Himalayan nation are discussing possibility of trilateral cooperation.
The idea of collaboration replacing competition was the theme of a seminar ‘China-India-Nepal Trilateral Cooperation in the Context of South Asia’ organized here on Thursday.
“China, Nepal and India have very profound cultural foundations. There is immense scope for cooperation in hydropower, telecom and related fields,” said China’s former vice foreign minister Zhang Weichao.
Trilateral cooperation if implemented is expected to help Nepal (one of the poorest countries in the world) benefit from the economic successes of its two much bigger neighbours.
“Strategic trust is a prerequisite for trilateral cooperation. Perceptions of what we do must be clear,” said former Indian ambassador to Nepal KV Rajan speaking at the programme organized by Nepal Institute of International and Strategic Studies (NIISS).
Indian and Chinese companies are competing to develop Nepal’s immense untapped hydropower potential and there is also rivalry to bag infrastructure contracts to develop roads.
“We could do with Indian and Chinese resources to resurrect the Nepal economy which has failed to take off even after the peace deal,” said Akhilesh Upadhyay, editor of Kathmandu Post.
Speakers deliberated on how China, India and Nepal can join hands to improve rail and road connectivity, tackle energy crisis and natural disasters and address each others’ security concerns.
Nepal could act as a link between China and India and increased people to people contact and cooperation between the three countries to develop a bigger Buddhist tourism circuit, they stated.
“Nepal, China and India can join hands to enhance peace and stability in the region by strengthening political trust at the official level,” said Zhang Zhuohua, vice president of Securities Regulatory Commission, Hong Kong.
More cross border investments, open markets and increased civic and cultural exchanges are some ideas which could help in boosting trilateral cooperation, the speakers felt.
In recent years Nepal and China have inched closer to each other in almost all sectors-----some believe at the cost of India.
There have been more bilateral visits, investments especially in the infrastructure and hydro-power sectors, financial aid to Nepal’s army and police, tourist arrivals and removal of trade barriers and tariffs.
India is still Nepal’s biggest trade partner and Indian investments account for 47.5% of the total approved foreign direct investment.