Nepal was forced to scale down its first military exercise with China because of purported pressure from India, Chinese state media reported on Friday.
“It was said the two countries initially planned to hold a battalion-scale military exercise. However, facing a strong opposition from India, Nepal had to compress the size of the military exercise and change the venue to a military school,” state-run Global Times tabloid reported.
The exercise, code-named Sagarmatha Friendship 2017, began on April 16.
“For Nepal, the joint military exercise has a deeper significance. For starters, it shows that Nepal moves forward in its pursuit of a balanced diplomacy among major powers,” said the piece in the newspaper that often publishes articles critical of India.
“Since the 1990s, balanced diplomacy has become the basic principle of Nepal's foreign strategy, which is established based on Nepal's nationalism and anti-Indian sentiment,” it said.
“Holding joint military exercises with China can contribute to deterring ethnic separatism in Nepal,” the article added.
China, according to reports, has expressed its backing for Nepal's new Constitution that was strongly opposed by Madhesi groups because of fears that it marginalised their political and constitutional rights.
“It is a normal development for China to hold a military exercise with Nepal as Nepal is China's friendly neighbour. There are many countries which have held joint military exercises, including India, with China. South Asia is a terrorism-prone region. Now that China and Nepal have developed closer economic relations, Nepal hopes to join China's Belt and Road initiative, for which regional security and stability is a necessity,” the article said.
Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari is in India on her first overseas tour. She arrived on a five-day trip on April 17.