Nepal PM’s India visit: Neighbour’s solidarity is rival’s envy

Why is in news?

During the visit of Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India the two sides signed eight pacts, including on cooperation in countering drug trafficking and post-earthquake reconstruction in the Himalayan nation. Sher Bahadur Deuba promised not to allow his country to be used for any activity against its “friendly” neighbor.

Importance:

  • Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s promise in the backdrop of the standoff with China at Dokalam, illustrates the need for New Delhi to refocus its energies on strengthening its relations in the neighbourhood.
  • Having established itself as an economic power, China is focused on acquiring proportionate geopolitical power. Changes in US foreign policy aid these ambitions.
  • China’s attempt to cultivate Pakistan as a client state, especially useful in trying to tie India down to South Asia, creates direct friction with New Delhi.

What India should do?

  • India must sustain efforts to build mutually beneficial partnerships with countries in the region and beyond. In terms of sheer economic capacity, India cannot compete with China.
  • However, unlike China, India is not mercantilist, making New Delhi a better partner. For its part, India needs to improve its delivery to be seen as a reliable partner.
  • New Delhi may not have Beijing’s cheque book but it can work together with countries like Japan to counter China’s economic advantage.
  • The EXIM bank needs to be empowered as well to give India an investment edge. India can gain through focus, on the one hand, on challenges that developing countries struggle with, such as climate change, besides perennial ones such as education, healthcare and adoption of new technologies and skills, and, on the other, with historical and cultural ties.

Conclusion:

The range of discussions and agreements signed during Deuba’s visit indicates that the government understands the importance of strong relations in South Asia. Under the Neighbourhood First policy, it has taken proactive steps in strengthening its partnerships in region. New Delhi must stay the course.

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