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23 Jan 2017

Nepal-China military drill concerns Delhi

ASHOK TUTEJA, SNS, New Delhi, 22 January 2017: In what has raised the hackles of the Indian establishment, Nepal is all set to conduct its first joint military exercises with China in February.
The planned drills, which are expected to focus on counter-terrorism and disaster management, clearly suggest Beijing's intention to position itself a s a strategic ally of Kathmandu, a source said.
Both China and Nepal have confirmed that the exercises, named as Pratikar-1, would take place in the northern region of the Himalayan country. However other details of the drills would be shared around the time of the drills.
It is learnt that China proposed joint military exercises to Nepal in May last year when relations between New Delhi and the then K P Oli regime in Kathmandu had cooled amid growing anti-India rhetoric in the Himalayan nation.
India itself has strong defence ties with Nepal and has been holding joint military exercises with it for over a decade now. It has also held joint exercises with China in recent years. But the Himalayan nation's decision to hold such drills s with China is certainly not good news for New Delhi.
When pointed out that Pakistan, an important South Asian country already enjoyed an 'all weather' friendship with China, the source said, "Islamabad's nexus with Beijing is not new and we in Delhi have been dealing with it for years...however, Nepal's decision to go in for military exercises with China has added a new dimension to the security calculus in the region." Nepal has, meanwhile, sought to play down its decision on joint exercises with China. Nepal's Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, who was in New Delhi earlier this week, reassured India that the drills would not be at the cost of Indo-Nepal ties. "The military exercises will be of a very small scale. There is no need for concern. Our ties with India and China cannot be compared with each other as the issues of both sides are different," he said.
Talking about the planned exercises, China's leading daily, Global times, which often reflect as the opinion of the Communist Party of China (CPC), recently said it was neither realistic nor possible for India to always regard Nepal as its backyard and put pressure on Sino-Nepalese cooperation. "If the Sino-Nepalese joint military exercises are implemented, it will enhance bilateral cooperation. In the future, Nepal and China may establish normalised and institutionalised security frame work. Meanwhile, the Sino-Nepalese relationship can set a good example for surrounding countries, thus further enhancing China's cooperation with countries in South Asia," the daily added.
But New Delhi is viewing with scepticism the statements emanating from both Beijing and Kathmandu because it is no secret that China has been on a major drive to increase its foot-prints in Nepal and other South Asian countries, where India holds considerable influence. In recent years, China has inked mega infrastructure deals with Nepal, Bangladesh and SriLanka.

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