Top
Millennium Post

Failed economic diplomacy

Failed economic diplomacy

Despite Indian Prime Minister's foreign policy initiatives that accord top priority to neighbourhood countries, the relations between India and its neighbours are showing no signs of improvement. In the latest move, China has allowed Nepal to use its seaports for third-party foreign trade. So far, Nepal has access to only Kolkata port for its foreign trade and it has been asking for access to other Indian ports for a long time. Nepal was allowed access to Vishakhapatnam port only recently. The growing influence of China can be gauged from the fact that China invested over $8 billion in Nepal last year, leaving India far behind in terms of investments in the Himalayan nation. India has traditionally been the largest business partner of Nepal but that equation is fast changing now. The current Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is widely believed to be pro-China. Nepal has also cancelled its participation in the first-ever joint military drill among BIMSTEC nations at the last minute in Pune. However, it decided to participate in a joint military drill with the Chinese military. Looking at the way Nepal is embracing China for all its needs from investments to market access, foreign policy experts in India are concerned that India may lose one of its closest friends to China. The growing Nepal-China bonhomie raises several questions about its strategic fallout. India and Nepal share a 1,750-km long open border and China's presence in Nepal through its investments and business projects poses a serious security concern for India.

Nepali political parties often blamed their governments for taking order from India. But the situation has changed drastically after the emergence of communist parties in the mainstream politics, sidelining Nepalese Congress which used to be extremely friendly and close to India's Congress party. For this reason alone, the current Modi government does not continue with the support that India traditionally gave to Nepali Congress. The new government in Nepal came into being after all important communist parties in the country got united to keep Nepali Congress out of power. The new government in Nepal remains wary of India as it has often been blamed for toppling governments in Nepal. The current Prime Minister Oli, who was the Prime Minister of the country when India unofficially imposed an economic blockade in 2015-16, has accused India of toppling his government in 2016. Recently, Oli's competitor and former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal who is better known as Prachanda was in India. During his four-day long trip that he termed as highly successful, he met Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj among other BJP and RSS leaders. Prachanda's party, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) is part of the government and he is expected to stake his claim for the Prime Minister's post on a rotational basis after Oli completes two-and-a-half years in office as the Prime Minister of Nepal. The news of China accepting Nepal's proposal for access to Chinese seaport for its foreign trade and Nepal cancelling its participation in BIMSTEC nation's joint military drill came around the same time when Prachanda was in New Delhi. Whether India is trying to remove Oli from the Prime Minister's post or not will be evident soon when Prachanda makes his next move. The rivalry between India and China is not new but what makes the Indian establishment nervous is the fact that after Pakistan and the Maldives, Nepal too is getting out of India's sphere of influence. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are already indebted to China for the massive ports that China has developed. However, China has been more than willing to improve its relations with India. China's goals in the Indian neighbourhood are all business-oriented; it has done everything to ensure that a military tension does not flare up. The countries in the Subcontinent are all poor and struggling with inefficient infrastructure. They all needed foreign investments and better infrastructure to boost the economy but India did not care enough to tap the opportunity. The advancements that China has made is truly awe-inspiring and the smaller nations in the Indian neighbourhood could not resist the temptation to join hands with the country. The new Chinese projects in these countries are the result of India's neglect in responding to the business opportunities that existed just next door. It's not the failure of Indian foreign policy but the failure to push economic diplomacy that has made smaller nations in India's neighbourhood to turn to China for help.

Next Story
Share it