India takes note as Pak PM visits Nepal with China on mind
An Indian official said the visit could be of some importance because Nepal is the current chair of the SAARC and Pakistan is looking ways to explore the possibility of holding the summit of the grouping at an early date.Updated: Mar 07, 2018 07:33 IST
In a visit that is of keen interest to New Delhi, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi pushed for reviving SAARC, stepping up bilateral ties and praised Chinese President Xi Jinping’s marquee One Belt One Road initiative as the first foreign guest of the new government in Nepal.
Some experts said a stand-alone bilateral visit by a Pakistani Prime Minister, a rare occurrence, reinforces the point that Nepal is looking for new partners, and it is expected that Islamabad would show greater interest in the countries in the region where China is expanding the footprints.
An Indian official said the visit could be of some importance because Nepal is the current chair of the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) and Pakistan is looking ways to explore the possibility of holding the summit of the grouping at an early date.
“SAARC summit will happen in Pakistan and the environment is building towards it. I am positive. No country is suggesting the summit should happen outside Pakistan”, Abbasi told media in Nepal after his interaction with Nepali leadership. India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh pulled out of the SAARC summit Pakistan was to host in 2016.
The Pakistani PM also talked about stepping up bilateral ties with Nepal including stepping up connectivity, exchange between parliamentarians and apprising Kathmandu of the ‘fight against terrorism’ Pakistan is undertaking at ‘greater cost.’
Significantly, the Pakistani PM also spoke at length about the importance of One Road One Belt project of Chinese government, an ambitious project of promising more than $1 trillion in infrastructure and that span through more than 60 countries. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is an important piece of this project. India is only major power that had stayed away from the initiative, citing issues of sovereignty and the debt trap the massive project would land the countries that take part in these projects. India’s South Asia partners such as Nepal and Sri Lanka are part of the OBOR.
Announcing the visit on Sunday, Pakistan Foreign Office said that the visit is part of Pakistan’s “pro-active and outreach efforts” to engage regional countries. And it is the incoming visit since Nepal’s new Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli took office last month. “Our ties with Nepal are characterized by cordiality, mutual respect and commonality of interests. Our support to each other at bilateral and multilateral fora has remained indispensible for both the sides,” the statement added.
Experts said that the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister is an indication of the fact that Nepal is looking for new partners, not content with its traditional ties with India.
“It is a significant visit. How often see the visit of a Pakistan PM to Nepal. This signals that Nepal is looking for new partners”, said strategic affairs expert Uday Bhaskar.
He said it should also be seen in the larger context of China cozying up with countries in the region. “Pakistan will naturally be seen stepping up ties with countries where China is doing the same”, he said.