India warned of zero-sum mentality as Nepal PM to visit China

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/18 22:38:40

Visit to provide opportunities for ties despite twists, turns

Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli was scheduled to visit China starting Tuesday with discussion focused on economic ties and infrastructure projects, and analysts said India should not worry its influence in Nepal would diminish, but instead focus on benign trilateral interactions.

At the invitation of Premier Li Keqiang, Oli was scheduled to pay an official visit to China from Tuesday to Sunday.

During the visit, President Xi Jinping will meet with Oli, and Premier Li will hold talks with him.

"China has always paid great importance to relations with Nepal as the two share a long border, and stable bilateral ties would benefit the stability of China's Tibet Autonomous Region," Zhao Gancheng, director of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies' Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.

Zhao said that economic cooperation may also top Oli's agenda in China since Nepal has been listed as a key country for China's Belt and Road initiative and Nepal has an increasing demand for economic development.

"China hopes to take Oli's visit as an opportunity to deepen our practical cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative and enhance cooperation in such areas as politics, economy and trade, infrastructure, post-disaster reconstruction and cultural and people-to-people exchanges so as to scale our bilateral ties to new heights," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at a media briefing on June 13.

Geng said the visit will provide important opportunities for the leaders of the two countries to chart the course for and guide the development of China-Nepal ties.

However, there are some twists and turns on economic cooperation facing China and Nepal, and Oli may discuss these issues, Zhao said.

For example, in 2015 Nepal cleared China's state-owned Three Gorges International Corp to build a long-delayed hydropower project on the West Seti River that was scheduled for completion by 2022. 

However, Kathmandu announced in May that Nepal would build the 750-megawatt hydroelectric plant, effectively scrapping the $1.6 billion deal with China.

This was the second such plant to be withdrawn from Chinese builders within six months, Reuters reported.

Not a zero-sum game

It's hard to rule out India's influence on Nepal's inconsistent economic cooperation with China, analysts said.

Instead of exaggerating the threat to India's interests of China's increasing influence in Nepal, India should give up playing a zero-game game in the region, analysts said.

"Nepal's economy relies heavily on India,"  Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times on Monday.

"India has been sensitive about the development of China-Nepal ties since it worries China is putting pressure on India's dominant role in the region," Hu noted.

Oli's visit to China may result in a confirmation of plans for a China-Nepal Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road initiative. The corridor "would further reduce Nepal's reliance on India and shift the balance of influence toward China in an area of military importance," the Times of India reported on June 14.

The Indian report also noted that Oli earlier visited China during his brief tenure as prime minister in 2016, at which time he widened China-Nepal ties by signing a transit trade treaty with China, and sought expansion of road links through China's Tibet in addition to the extension of China's railway network to Nepal through the Himalayas.

India competed with China in offering road building in Nepal, threatened by the prospect of China-built railroads going directly to India's border through Nepal, Hu told the Global Times on Monday.

"China should also take India into consideration when developing ties with Nepal. Benign trilateral ties would benefit the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative in the region," Hu said.

Newspaper headline: Nepal PM to visit China


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