INTERNATIONAL

‘Nepal’s no to drills is not a snub to India’

Official says joint exercise proposal could have been channelled through China

Nepal’s decision not to participate in the India-proposed military exercise of the Bay of Bengal group of countries is not a a snub to New Delhi, but rather it signals that a new set of rules need to be evolved that will meld the collective interests of India, Nepal and China, an official source said.

A diplomatic source from Nepal, who did not want to be named, told The Hindu that there are certain decisions, such as conduct of bilateral military exercises, that are easier to take. “We have no problem of holding a bilateral military exercise with India, China or a third country. Thus, we are going ahead with a standalone military exercise with China.” India and Nepal also hold regular military exercises called Surya Kiran.

Possible anti-China slant

But the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) military drill could have been construed as having an anti-China slant. “Before we participate in such an exercise, it would be prudent if such proposals were channelled through the two-plus-one mechanism that China backs, after the Wuhan informal summit in April between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the source said.

Nepal officials acknowledged that the Chinese side proposed the “two-plus-one” mechanism during their Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s visit to Beijing in June. “We welcome the two- plus-one format as we are confident that such a dialogue will be conducted in a spirit of equality and mutual respect,” Shakti Bahadur Basnet, Nepal’s Minister of Forests and Environment, earlier told The Hindu .

Analysts said that under this mechanism China and India can achieve consensus on thorny issues and through consultations with the third country involved, arrive at a mutually acceptable trilateral decision. “This is different from a trilateral mechanism. Under the Chinese proposal, China and India can jointly conduct a dialogue with a third regional country,” the source said.

The official pointed out that there were other compulsions which forced Kathmandu’s hand on BIMSTEC. “It is a fact that there was no domestic consensus on the BIMSTEC military exercise.”

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