Nepal, India and China: Fostering ties that bind

Nepal and India, Nepal and China and China and India share unique and historic bilateral relations. Time has now come to foster tripartite ties and enhance cooperation through joint efforts for shared benefits

This article tries to delve into relations between Nepal and China, China and India and Nepal and India.Nepal has for decades maintained good bilateral relations with her two giant neighbours — India and China. India and China enjoy their own bilateral relations. Leaders of the three countries meet regularly either at bilateral levels or at the regional or international forums. Frequent high-level bilateral exchanges between the countries have always played a crucial role in strengthening the relations.

The longstanding relationship between Nepal and China can be traced back to the seventh century. Around 600-650 BC, Nepali princess Bhrikuti was married to the Tibetan Emperor Songsten Gampo. Princess Bhrikuti took Buddhists relics and Thangkas to Tibet, and established Buddhism in Tibet. Since that time Nepal and China started importing and exporting sculptures and paintings.

The cooperation between China and Nepal was further strengthened by the joint efforts of both sides. The two countries have cooperated constructively in various fields. In recent times, the two sides are in a bid to further strengthen the cooperation through China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The two sides have signed a number of cooperation agreements, including the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relationship of Nepal with China in 1960, our bilateral relations are guided by the principles of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect.

China is Nepal’s important development partner in the areas such as infrastructure, power development, communication, agriculture and technology, education and culture, tourism and aviation, capacity building, health, people’s livelihood, disaster prevention and mitigation, and cultural heritage renovation. With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative on May 12, 2017 in Kathmandu between Nepal and China, new avenues for bilateral cooperation in mutually agreed areas are expected to open. Nepal expects to upgrade its vital infrastructure, enhance cross-border connectivity with China and enhance people-to-people relations.

India and China are two very populous countries with ancient civilisations and a time honoured history, which dates back 2,000 years, and since the establishment of diplomatic ties between two countries, friendship and cooperation have made significant progress. China is India’s largest trading partner in the world and India is China’s seventh largest export destination. Many Indian projects in China are focused in sectors such as automobiles, energy, computer accessories, machinery, telecommunication and export of steel. Similarly more than 100 Chinese companies operate in India. Many Indian banks and Chinese banks have branches in each other’s countries.

Cultural and economic relations between China and India date back to ancient times. The Silk Road not only served as a major trade route between India and China, but is also credited for facilitating the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia.

Since the late 1980s, both countries have successfully developed diplomatic and economic ties. In 2008, China became India’s largest trading partner and the two countries have also extended their strategic and military relations. Apart from trade and commerce, there are some other areas of mutual interest on which China and India have been cooperating of late. Currently, the two countries are cooperating on a range of international issues like trade, climate change and reform of the global financial order, among others, to promote common interest.

In June 2012, China stated its position that “Sino-Indian ties” could be the most “important bilateral partnership of the century”. Bilateral trade between China and India touched US$89.6 billion in 2017-18. This figure excludes bilateral trade between India and Hong Kong which stands at another US$34 billion.

India still remains one of the major sources of remittance to Nepal. India is Nepal’s largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments, besides providing transit for almost the entire third country trade of Nepal. India accounts for over two-third of Nepal’s merchandise trade, trade in services, foreign direct investments, petroleum supplies, and a significant share of inward remittances on account of pensioners and workers. During the early 1970s, India absorbed almost all of Nepal’s exports and accounted for nearly 90 per cent of Nepal’s imports.

Nepal’s transit trade is routed through 22 designated routes from India-Nepal border to the port of Haldia. In addition, Nepal’s trade with and through Bangladesh also transits through India. Government of India is providing assistance for development of cross-border trade related infrastructure.

The relationship of both China and India with Nepal has become stronger in the last 30 years. For regional peace, prosperity and stability, friendly tripartite relations in the 21st century between India, China and Nepal should be actively harnessed.

For stability, prosperity and inclusive development a CIN (China-India-Nepal) wing should be developed to further the foster inter-state and people-to-people contacts.

Dahal is a Nepali Congress member of 13th National Convention