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On Doklam, Nepal walks a tightrope

Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba says won’t allow territory to be used against India

The two-month old standoff between India and China at Doklam did not feature in the official talks between visiting Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and PM Modi, said officials, but India-China tensions were the highlight of an event that followed, where Mr. Deuba and several Ministers were present.

‘No China threat’

“We have excellent relations with China and don’t face problems from them,” Mr. Deuba told an audience at the event organised by the India Foundation here.

“India need not have any apprehensions about that. However, under no circumstances would Nepal allow its soil to be used against India,” he added.

Mr. Deuba was responding to a speech by Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who had alluded to problems that Nepal could face from its strong northern neighbour. “India is willing to help Nepal any time, in any manner required,” Mr. Paswan said.

Referring to the strain in ties between India and Nepal in 2015, when a blockade during protests by Madhesi groups at the India Nepal border had cut essential goods and fuel supplies to Kathmandu, Mr. Paswan said these were common in “families”.

 “There is always some small issues [khat-pat] that goes on within a family. But we have ancient relations, and Nepal is a place of our faith [astha],” he said in Hindi.

Later on Thursday, Mr. Deuba also attended a reception hosted by the Nepali Ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay. Significantly, the Ambassadors of China and Bhutan to India as well as National Security Advisor Ajit Doval were present at the occasion.

When asked whether the issue had been discussed between Mr. Deuba and Mr. Modi during their meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said they had not spoken about the Doklam dispute that has seen Indian and Chinese troops in a face-off since June 16th. “India-China relations did not figure in the talks,” Mr. Jaishankar said in response to the questions, and neither, he said, had the Doklam issue.

Mr. Deuba’s comments reflect the tightrope that Nepal has been attempting to walk in the past few months, especially after it joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which India has objected to on sovereignty issues.

On his last visit to India in November 2016 as head of the Nepali Congress, he had faced questions over an alleged meeting between him and the Tibetan “government in exile’s” Sikyong or leader Lobsang Sangay at a conference in Goa also organised by the India Foundation.

In a statement the Nepali Congress had denied the reports and expressed its support for the “One China” policy. Earlier this month, Nepal’s Deputy PM and the Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara had also said that Nepal would not be “dragged” into the Doklam dispute between India and China, adding that Nepal has “not taken any side in this matter.”

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 4:54:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/china-is-close-neighbour-but-india-neednt-worry-nepal-pm/article19555356.ece

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