View from China – Indo-Nepal relations

Hu Yong – Associate professor of international relations at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics(SUIBE)
speaks with Dr. Anil Sigdel of Nepal Matters for America


Q: How China sees India-Nepal relations vis-a-vis China’s security concerns?

I think China’s main security concern in India-Nepal relations is Tibet that includes Tibetan separatists in India and Nepal and territorial dispute between China(Tibet) and India. Unless India takes advantage of  Nepal to encourage Tibetan separatists to make troubles or launch border skirmishes, China will not feel security heavy threats from India-Nepal relations.

In Xi era especially, how sensitive you think China is towards India when it  comes to China’s relations with Nepal?

In my opinion, President Xi is more confident than previous leaders when he deals with India-Nepal-China relations. He views developing China-Nepal relationship as China’s legitimate and sovereign right just like India furthers its connections with Nepal.

Do you see China-Nepal relations as constant or subject to change depending on the nature of China-India ties at a given time?

My viewpoint is that China hopes that it can develop China-Nepal relations and China-India relations simultaneously without problems. But in reality it can be only based upon the state-of-affairs of China-India ties. If they are faced with difficulties, China-Nepal relations will be trapped subtly in such situation.

Nepal-India relations is so close, at the same time, so complicated, how China understand this complex dynamic?

China understands that unique historical and cultural linkages exist between India and Nepal. China has neither intent nor capabilities to pull Nepal away from India. But China insists that India should not take advantage of its power to dominate or control Nepal because Nepal is also an independent country just like India and China, and should be treated equally by India.

Recently Nepal-India relations have again hit a low as India constructed a road through Nepal’s territory of Kalapani. Nepal also has some reservations towards China when Indian PM Modi in his visit to Beijing had an agreement with President Xi to upgrade the border in the area claimed by Nepal without any consultations with Nepal?

I know the intensification of territorial dispute in Kalapani between Nepal and India. But I have no idea about the latter because of censorship in China, perhaps.

Now India has included the area into its map, constructed a road to Tibet border opening a new route to Mansarovar, and in response Nepal has issued a new political map for the first time including these territories into Nepal. How China is watching all this?

Officially it seems that Chinese government chooses neutral position in Kalapani dispute because it is the bilateral issue between India and Nepal. In public opinion, most of Chinese netizens are pro-Nepal and anti-India. Firstly, Chinese netizens stand with the weak rather than the strong. Secondly, there is also border dispute between China and India.

Nevertheless, I see it difficult that there will be cooperation between Nepal and China in territorial dispute with India. It is very sensitive geopolitically for both Nepal and China. They must be prudent and cautious.

Some speculate that Nepal has gone into Chinese fold, therefore, India is seizing strategic territories at the cost of India-Nepal relations and international norms, if so, what kind of future you see for China-Nepal relations vis-a-vis India?

Yes, some argue that China is developing its ties with Nepal at the expense of India’s strategic interests. But it is not the truth. I think China respects particular relationship between India and Nepal, and never puts pressure on Nepal to take sides between China and India. China is looking forward to constituting development-oriented and equally-treated trilateral relations. Whether this kind of new type trilateral relations will come true or not depends on India’s outlook  — namely stop viewing Nepal as a puppet nation and China as a threat.

Despite complex dynamic between India and Nepal, Nepal has continued to depend on India for everyday supplies to many other things. How does China see this?

China hopes Nepal can develop a good relationship with India. China has no capabilities to replace India totally as Nepal’s decisive economic, security and development partner. China does not want to see Nepal as a victim of India-China tussle.

Photo: Prachanda and Xi

Shanghai and Washington/ July 18, 2020

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