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Kushal asked: In recent times, China has shown a keen interest in the politics of an unstable Nepal. What are China’s objectives in Nepal?

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  • Jagannath P. Panda replies: China sees Nepal as a strategic location for its geo-political objectives in South Asia. In Chinese strategic perception, Nepal would be better utilized by regional powers like India if China doesn’t maintain or institute a strong relationship with Nepal. Besides, the Chinese experts believe that Nepal is crucial from Beijing’s security perspective because of the frequent protest movements and vulnerable conditions in Tibet. In Chinese calculation, having good relations with Nepal will help it to curb Tibetan movements and keep a vigilant eye on the Tibetan protests and activities. While the Tibet factor remains primary security issue for China in Nepal, possibility for greater trade and commercial contacts with Nepal has also been the principal objectives in China’s recent policy towards Nepal. Trade has continued to expand between China and Nepal over the years, but importantly, China has also inked vital hydro power plant projects with Nepal.

    For example, China has recently signed a $1.6 billion agreement to develop the hydro power plant in Nepal, which is of almost 760-megawatt, known as West Seti project. This is vital from India’s perspective as India used to be the principal country in Nepal’s hydro power and water projects till recently. In short, the Chinese policy towards Nepal consists of both political and economic objectives, targeted at larger South Asian politics and goals. In return, Nepal has equally shown greater support and affiliation with China in the broader South Asian politics. This is clearly evidenced in Nepal’s open support for China’s application for “observer status” in SAARC previously. More recently, Nepal has also not openly opposed the prospect of China becoming a “full member” in SAARC. India must take these issues seriously, as Nepal is a neighbouring South Asian country, and India shares larger security and political interests with Nepal.