By Ram Khatry, Sydney
23 April 2017
China’s state-run daily newspaper, Global Times, recently claimed that Nepal downsized the ongoing military exercise between the communist giant and the Himalayan nation because of a “strong opposition from India”. In an article published on April 20, it also noted that most people in Nepal fear their country could become next Sikkim.
Code-named Sagarmatha Friendship 2017, the ten-day long programme is the first ever joint military exercise between the mammoth People’s Liberation Army and the much smaller Nepal Army. This does not mean that the two nations have not had any military links at all. They do regularly exchange high-level visits, with the Chinese military offering assistance to its Nepali counterpart in the past.
Global Times also claimed that the two armies had “initially planned to hold a battalion-scale military exercise” but that “Nepal had to compress the size of the military exercise and changed the venue to a military school.” However, a December 2016 report by Kathmandu Post has a Nepal Army official stating that the exercise would be “in a small-scale”.
“The joint military exercise shows that the bilateral diplomatic relations have expanded from political, economic and cultural to the field of military defense. But for China, this is just one aspect of the overall national security outlook proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping,” the daily said.
The writer of the article, Liu Zongyi, who is said to be a senior fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, claimed that Nepali people fear losing their sovereignty, “Nepal’s dependence on India in political, economic, cultural and other aspects as well as India’s ambition to make Nepal its sphere of influence has made most people in Nepal fear losing their national independence as Sikkim did.”
He went on to say that China hopes to see Nepal as a bridge between China and India. “By pushing forward the China-Nepal-India economic corridor, it can boost development in all three countries. No matter how India views cooperation between China and Nepal, such cooperation will continue to expand, as it fits the interests of both peoples,” he noted.
The Chinese daily agreed that India had bigger influence over Nepal than China due to geographic, political, economic, historic, religious and cultural factors.
The populist newspaper which often courts controversy because of its strong opinion pieces blamed India for its hegemonic stance, “The Indian security and strategic circle has watched the joint drill between Beijing and Kathmandu closely, because of India’s long-held South Asian hegemonic mentality.”