Nepal could become a bridge between India and China, President Xi Jinping told visiting Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in an uncharacteristic mention of a third country at a bilateral meeting.
Oli is on high-profile week-long visit to China, his first after becoming premier, which many experts say is an effort to reduce the land-locked Himalayan country’s dependence on India for trade and supply of essential goods.
On Monday, Oli signed 10 deals, including one on a new trans-border railway line and another on China opening up its sea ports to Nepal for trade.
During his discussion with Oli, Xi said it would be best for Nepal to benefit from the growth of both China and India.
“Nepal can be a bridge between China and India,” Xi told Oli, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“As to the trilateral China-Nepal-India relationship, Xi said he hopes Nepal will benefit from development in China and India, adding that it is in the common interests of the two big neighbours that Nepal enjoys stability and development,” Xinhua reported.
Nepal’s ambassador to China, Mahesh Maskey, too mentioned India in an interview with the state media.
“Nepal’s national interest is safeguarded if the two great neighbours collaborate more rather than get drawn into conflict. Therefore Nepal playing the ‘China card’ against India or for that matter, ‘India card’ against China is out of the question,” Maskey told the Global Times newspaper.
“At best such notions may be ‘figments of the imagination’ of those who do not understand the national interest of Nepal.”
Maskey said the dissatisfaction of the Madhesi community following the adoption of Nepal’s new Constitution would be addressed and “is expected to be fully resolved in the near future”.
In an opinion piece, the Global Times said: “Sandwiched between the two giant neighbours, keeping good relationships with both China and India is the only sound choice for Kathmandu, as well as for regional harmony. Therefore, instead of being forced into becoming a strategic barrier against China, Nepal should be better treated and act as a bridge between Beijing and New Delhi.”
At the same time, it said, India should not treat Nepal as its “vassal state” and allow Kathmandu to choose its development partners.