Nepal will hold its first-ever joint military exercise with China, its northern neighbour, on 10 February, Nepali media reported on Thursday (22 December). The decision to hold a joint military exercise comes at a time when India’s relations with both China and Nepal are at the lowest, leaving India worried about the possible consequences. Ever since it came to power in 2015, the ultra-left Communist Party of Nepal has been trying to forge closer ties with Beijing.
While no official statements have been issued by New Delhi, Nepal has addressed the issue, saying that the military engagement between the two countries would be on a very "small scale" and that “there was nothing for India to be worried about.” Downplaying the importance of this development, Nepal's Ambassador to India Deep Upadhyay said: "There's really not much in it.”
Reactions have come from China as well, with state-owned media houses saying that “Indian officials, media and academic circles should not read too much into the two countries' security cooperation. If the Sino-Nepalese joint military exercise is implemented, this will enhance bilateral relations”, an Op-Ed in Global Time said, adding that “India should understand and adapt to this trend”.
According to The Hindu, the joint exercise will focus on counter-terrorism, and this is worrisome as China’s definition of terrorism covers Tibetan dissenters, while it conveniently omits the likes of Moulana Masood Azhar. Experts believe that the exercise is “unconventional” and will ring alarm bells in New Delhi, though it does not violate the 1950 India-Nepal treaty of peace and friendship.
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