As China's influence grows, Nepal struggles to strike balance between India and Beijing

DelhiUpdated: May 11, 2020, 09:08 PM IST

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli (File photo) Photograph:(Reuters)

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 Nepal is struggling to strike a balance between India and China

A dispute between India and Nepal has escalated into a full-blown diplomatic crisis. Kathmandu on Monday summoned the Indian ambassador who was given a 'diplomatic note'.

Nepal is objecting over a road built by India. This is a new link road to Kailash Mansarovar that goes through the Lipulekh pass. The road was inaugurated by defence minister Rajnath Singh on Friday.

Nepal stakes claim over Lipulekh pass, a territory that India controls. For quite some time now, Indians and Tibetans have been using Lipulekh for border trade. India and Nepal were in the process of resolving this dispute and foreign secretaries from both sides were supposed to meet, but the coronavirus outbreak has delayed the talks. The project has been in the public domain since the UPA era. They had cleared it way back in 2005, the BJP government began work on it two years ago.

Observers say domestic compulsions could have compelled the Nepalese government to take a stand on the dispute. Reportedly, Nepal's prime minister KP Sharma Oli was under pressure and factions of his government wanted Oli to take a tough stand against India.

Nepal is governed by the Nepal communist party which was founded in 2018 when two left parties joined hands. This was when Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal joined hands.

The party won power, but the government has been unstable because of the constant in-fighting. There is still a risk that the Nepal Communist Party could split.

Last week, China's ambassador to Nepal met with all key political stakeholders, including prime minister Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Observers saw this as a move to repair the relationship between the two. When Oli was faced pressure to protest against India, he apparently chose to give in.

What is now becoming clear is the fact that China is micromanaging Nepal. Nepal is struggling to strike a balance between India and China, and prime minister KP Sharma Oli seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place.