Nepal, China Begin First Ever Joint Military Exercise In Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, (AFP): China and Nepal began their first-ever joint military exercises on Sunday, a move likely to be keenly looked upon by New Delhi as Beijing boosts its influence in the region.

Nepal is geographically situated between China and India and has in recent years ping-ponged between the sphere of influence of Delhi and Beijing as the Asian giants jostle for regional supremacy.

The 10-day drill programme in Kathmandu, dubbed ‘Sagarmatha Friendship 2017’ referring to the Nepali name for Mount Everest, will focus on counter-terrorism, according to Nepal’s army.

“This is in line with our efforts to hold joint exercises with countries that have diplomatic relations with Nepal,” military spokesman Jhankar Bahadur Kadayat told news agency AFP.

The drills will likely be watched closely by India which has been a major ally of Nepal, since the Jawaharlal Nehru era, with signage of the India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1950.

Landlocked Nepal remains dependent on India for the majority of its imports, but the previous administration aggressively courted China as part of a nationalist drive to decrease the country’s reliance on New Delhi.

“Nepal and China share a multi-faceted tie and a joint military exercise broadens that relationship,” said Tanka Karki, former Nepali ambassador to China.

Last month China’s defence minister Chang Wanquan visited Nepal, the first by a Chinese defence minister in 15 years, to discuss the joint military exercise.

The current Maoist-led government in Nepal has sought to repair strained ties with New Delhi while continuing to accept cash from its powerful northern neighbour.

China has lavished grand infrastructure promises on Nepal, including recently pledging $8.3 billion in investment, equivalent to nearly to fourty per cent of its entire GDP.

The commitment dwarfed India’s investment offer of $317 million.

(In March, Nepal PM Prachanda has shown his support to China’s Silk Road project. Photo: Reuters)

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