India’s Pranab Mukharjee visited Nepal on 2-4 November. Afterwards, the Nepali Congress leader visited India where he met the Dalai Lama. Beijing reacted by calling on Kathmandu for explanations. Nepal responded reiterating its support for the ‘One China’ policy.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The visit of Indian President Pranab Mukharjee to Nepal led to controversy over the Himalayan nation’s relations with its neighbours, first and foremost China, which stressed its hold on Nepal and the terms of their future cooperation.
Mr Mukharjee was in Nepal from 2 to 4 November in a visit hailed as one of the most significant moments in recent history, which had been marked by a bitter bilateral dispute last year over tribal minorities in Nepal’s Terai region.
Indo-Nepali relations became so bad that Delhi imposed an embargo on goods going to Nepal, causing hardship for ordinary Nepalis and businesses.
Since then, tensions de-escalated but at the expense of government stability. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who had encouraged working with China during the embargo, was forced to resign and parliament named to the post veteran leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, who is more pro-Indian.
"Nepal has entered a new era,” Mukharjee said during his visit. “India welcomes the initiatives by the government to include all strata of society."
After the president’s visit, Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba travelled to India where met with the Dalai Lama and some Tibetan leaders, sparking Beijing’s anger.
Chinese authorities reacted strongly, calling on Nepali authorities to reiterate their support for the ‘one China policy’.
A Chinese embassy note condemned "the meeting with the Dalai Lama and the presence of Taiwan's flag at an art exhibition in Kathmandu whilst ignoring Chinese concerns and the presence of a Chinese delegation during the visit of the Indian President."
What irked Beijing the most was Taiwan's flag and the visit of the Tibetan Buddhist leader. Nepal responded by renewing its commitment to the ‘One-China’ policy, adding that it would no longer undertake activities that go against its neighbours.
"Nepal is in a very delicate and sensitive geo-strategic position,” said Prof Shreedhar Khatri. “Maintaining relations with one’s neighbours and other friendly countries is challenging. If Nepal’s diplomats and political leaders fail to take this into account, our immediate neighbours might clash with us and we wouldn’t be able to protect our interests.”
“The government should work with one country and not upset the other,” said Nepal’s former ambassador to India Lokraj Baral. “Nepal must take seriously the interests of other countries."