Nepal, the landlocked South Asian country with a population of 26.4 million, is trying hard to normalise ties between India and China. With the two Asian powers vying to outsmart each other in Nepal, the Himalayan nation is worried about the deterioration of Sino-Indian relations. The top political leadership in Kathmandu is well aware of the fact that there is a growing sense in New Delhi that Nepal has been inviting greater Chinese role to counter India.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda who is set to become Nepal’s next prime minister, has hinted that he is ready to mediate between the two Asian powers in order to maintain regional peace and stability, saying that “China has always asked me to maintain good ties with India”. Clearing air about Nepal’s ties with China, Prachanda said that Beijing’s main concern in his country is not India, but the Western powers.

The 61-year-old Nepali leader made clear that his government would maintain balanced foreign relations with both the neighbours, stressing that India is a stakeholder in the post-2006 political process of Nepal. Describing Nepal-India ties as ‘unique’, he said that India should understand the fact that it would not be possible for Nepal to snap ties with China. “It is for the Indian establishment to think about its record. But I can say from Nepal’s side, there is a need for balance. We have to take the transitional process to a logical conclusion. And for this, all stakeholders have to come together,” added Prachanda.

Meanwhile, the PM-in-waiting sought increased assistance from India in the economic development of Nepal, stressing: “Our geopolitics dictates we have to take a balanced view. We have been saying our challenge is to strengthen internal nationalism and respect all identities.” Prachanda did not forget to defend growing Chinese interference in Nepal’s domestic politics. “The Chinese interest is in Tibet, which shares a long border with Nepal, and that is why it keenly watched Nepali politics and the role of foreign powers here. No one should get involved in micromanaging affairs in Nepal,” he told the press.
India and Nepal initiated their relationship with the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Since late 2015, cultural and political issues have strained bilateral relations with anti-Indian sentiment growing amongst the government and people of Nepal. The scenario has prompted Prachanda to urge India to “be more comfortable with the idea of Nepal dealing more with the rest of the world, including with China”. Nepal is the buffer-state between China and India.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]