By Atul Aneja/The Hindu
Beijing, September 18: Nepalese officials say that the Chinese side proposed India-China-Nepal talks to resolve thorny issues. Called the “two-plus one” mechanism, it was proposed by China during Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s visit to Beijing in June this year.
“We welcome the two- plus-one format as we are confident that such a dialogue will be conducted in a spirit of equality and mutual respect,” Shakti Bahadur Basnet, Nepal’s Minister of Forests and Environment, earlier told The Hindu.
Nepal’s decision not to participate in the India-proposed military exercise of the Bay of Bengal group of countries, instead of a snub to New Delhi, signals that a new set of rules need to be evolved that will meld the collective interests of India, Nepal and China, official sources say.
A diplomatic source from Nepal, who did not wish to be named, told The Hindu that there are certain decisions, such as conduct of bilateral military exercises, which are less complex, are easier to take. “We have no problem of holding a bilateral military exercise with India, China or a third country. Thus we are going ahead with a stand-alone military exercise with China,” the source said. India and Nepal also hold regular military exercises called Surya Kiran.
But the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) military drill could have been construed as having an anti-China slant. “Before we participate in such an exercise, it would be prudent if such proposals were channeled through the two-plus- one mechanism that China backs, after the Wuhan informal summit in April between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the source observed.
Analysts say that under this mechanism China and India can achieve consensus on specific thorny issues and through consultations with the third country involved, arrive at a mutually acceptable trilateral decision.
“This is different from a trilateral mechanism. Under the Chinese proposal, China and India can jointly conduct a dialogue with a third regional country,” the source said.
The Nepalese official pointed out that there were other compulsions which forced Kathmandu’s hand on the BIMSTEC military-exercise decision. “It is a fact that there was no domestic consensus on the
BIMSTEC military exercise decision, which restricted Prime Minister Oli’s room for manoeuvre,” he said.
Besides, the timing was also not conducive for a military exercise, as Nepal has been engaged in delicate negotiations with China, such as arriving at an important free trade deal. “In fact, we would like India also to join negotiations with China so that we can have a trilateral free trade area,” the source said.
Nepalese officials say that Kathmandu’s deep reliance on New Delhi is inevitable and irreversible. For instance, Kathmandu avidly needs New Delhi’s support for energy exports in the region, including
“Nepal will soon have surplus power, which we would like to export to regional countries such as Bangladesh. But we cannot bulk transit energy without India’s support,” says Roshan Khadka, media adviser to Nepal’s energy and water resources minister, Barsha Man Pun, in a conversation with The Hindu.
“Bangladesh will become a bulk energy market and under a 40 year plan, Dhaka will purchase 9000 megawatts of power from Nepal by 2040,” Mr. Khadka observed.
A Memrandum of Understanding (MoU) for this export has already been signed. The Kathmandu Post quoted Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as saying earlier this month that Dhaka’s attempt “to import electricity from Nepal and Bhutan is underway,” and a trilateral understanding among Bangladesh, India and Bhutan would be signed soon.
Separately, the daily reported that Bangladesh cabinet has already approved a MoU, signed last year during the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s visit to India. Following the approval, Bangladesh will be allowed to import power from the Upper Karnali hydropower project, which is being developed in Nepal by an Indian company, through an Indian transit corridor.
(The featured image at the top shows the Nepalese Prime Minister K.P.Oli with the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing)