See More on Facebook

Opinion, Politics

When it comes to foreign policy, Nepal should look beyond just India and China

Jun 15, 2018-Nepal’s foreign policy under Prime Minister  KP Oli has been a matter of serious discussion in the public domain.


Written by

Updated: June 15, 2018

Given Oli’s past public remarks and the joint election manifesto of the then CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre with regards to Nepal’s foreign policy, it is posited that Oli may fail to balance relations with the country’s immediate neighbours, India and China. The Oli-led communist government may follow a China-friendly foreign policy, jeopardising the much-hyped Nepal-India relations. Oli has maintained that his government would prioritise balanced relations with India and China, promote Nepal’s national interests and work to achieve economic development and prosperity keeping in mind the principles of Panchasheel, non-alignment, UN Charter and international law.
India-China centric

On closer scrutiny, Oli’s foreign policies do not offer much novelty. Like his predecessors, Oli too is focused on balancing relations with neighbours. But unlike other contemporary leaders of Nepal, Oli is a seasoned politician and an astute diplomat. Soon after he landed in Baluwatar, Oli  wasted no time in mending ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom relations had been fraught post the 2015 blockade. To the dismay of many, he chose India as his first foreign visit destination since taking office. Moreover, Modi’s reciprocal visit soon after added meaning to Oli’s diplomatic optics.

Indulging as he did at great lengths with India, Oli demonstrated diplomatic prudence, thereby nullifying speculations that he might tilt towards China. The high-level visits within the short span of time, the language and body language of Oli and Modi during their respective visits, the agreements and understandings reached upon, the closure of the Indian Embassy’s field office in Biratnagar, the foundation stone-laying of Arun III hydro project—all these demonstrate Oli’s prowess at improving relations with India to some extent.

Attaching equal importance, Oli is visiting China next week and the Chinese side expects that the bilateral relationship will be further strengthened by the visit. Oli is confident about his relations with China, so he will do his level best to make the upcoming visit fruitful. China will definitely make further efforts to deepen its ties with Nepal during Oli’s visit given its ever increasing strategic and diplomatic interests in Nepal and the South Asia region as a whole. China has some strategically important pet projects in areas of hydro power and transportation including the Belt and Road Initiative. Therefore, Oli’s upcoming China visit will have long-term and significant implications for Nepal-China relations. Considering the policy statements, recent India visit and the upcoming China visit, it is safe to assume that Oli’s foreign policy is indeed India-China centric.

Look beyond neighbourhood

No matter how successful Oli has been in reorienting Nepal’s diplomatic relations with the two giant neighbours, his diplomatic outlook is but a continuation of the past governments in the last two decades. To his credit, Oli has committed to explore opportunities in the extended neighbourhood and diversifying Nepal’s relations with major international actors in areas of trade, transit and investment. Such commitments are positive in principle, but we are yet to see him traverse beyond the immediate neighbourhood.

There is no denying that Nepal should diversify its terms of engagement with India and China given the increasing influence of both the countries in diplomatic, economic and military aspects in regional and global contexts. But Nepal would do well to move beyond the periphery of India and China and engage more with the outside world to maintain its sovereignty, stability and prosperity. Though the US and other Western countries are losing their foothold in the global power structure, they remain as important as before in the Nepali context. Likewise, Nepal should also strengthen its diplomatic relations with labor-receiving countries in Middle East and East Asia that have less strategic interests in Nepal but can contribute to the country’s development efforts.

Transforming agendas  

Much of the past two decades in Nepal went into managing conflict and a protracted political transition. As national and international actors alike remained deeply engaged with such political issues, matters of economic development and prosperity took a back seat. However, following the promulgation of the new constitution and the subsequent three tiers elections (federal, provincial and local) economic development and prosperity have emerged as the sine qua for the government. Even the then left alliance succeeded in winning the elections based on the popular slogan of economic development and prosperity.

Oli has been advocating for infrastructure development, connectivity, railways, roadways, waterways, hydro projects and foreign investment for development and prosperity. Like with New Delhi, he is expected to sign some more connectivity agreements with Beijing during his upcoming visit. He has appealed to the international community to support economic development of Nepal, but a mere appeal will not be sufficient for international economic cooperation. The government should put appropriate economic and investment policies in place to create an environment conducive for international support. The fulfilling of national objectives, therefore, is dependent on how robustly the government furthers its economic diplomacy.

All in all, the Oli government should comprehensively revise and redefine its foreign policy, taking into account the changing national, regional and global contexts. While balancing the relations between India and China is an imperative, it should also not forgo relations with the rest of the world. Only when government actively pursues Nepal’s national interest—a buzzword of the current government—with well thought out plans and neatly crafted policies can we expect substantial changes in our foreign policy as well as in our outlook towards India and China.

By Geja Sharma Wagle



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Kathmandu Post
About the Author: The Kathmandu Post was Nepal’s first privately owned English broadsheet daily and is currently the country's leading English-language newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion, Politics

Maldives strongman Abdulla Yameen in shock election defeat

The Maldivian election was watched closely as an indicator of China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. Maldives strongman Abdulla Yameen’s hopes for a second presidential term were dashed on September 24 with opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeating him in the country’s elections. After a months-long sweeping crackdown on the opposition and a brief state of emergency imposed by the autocratic Yameen, the election on September 23 was preceded by a bitter campaign during which opposition leaders frequently accused the ruling regime of rights abuses and oppression. Several independent news websites reported that after the counting of a majority of the votes, Solih had won more than 58 per cent of the votes to 41 per cent for Yameen. Hours after the emergence of the informal results, Yameen conceded defeat to Solih during a televised news conference, saying: “Mal


By Lamat R Hasan
September 25, 2018

Opinion, Politics

Opinion: One Belt, One Road: We must secure our interest

Shah Husain Imam argues in the Daily Star that Bangladesh must put its interests first in joining China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The ancient Silk Road, of which the Belt and Road Initiative is a gigantic new avatar, dates back to the Chinese Han Dynasty’s westward expansion more than 2100 years ago. The Road derived its name from the lucrative silk trade along the routes through which it branched into what are today the central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, as well as present-day Pakistan and India to the south. These routes eventually spanned 4,000 miles to Europe. Interestingly, silk was regarded as more precious than gold as a commodity in those times as if to convey the misty romanticism with the old world charm about a fine fabric. At any rate, the Silk Road by no means offered silken smooth passage to travellers like Marco P


By Daily Star
September 21, 2018

Opinion, Politics

Abe wins 3rd term as president of ruling LDP

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was reelected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for a third consecutive term on Thursday. “I will put all my strength and soul into fulfilling my duty,” Abe said after his victory. A total of 810 votes were cast in the LDP presidential poll, half by Diet lawmakers and half by rank-and-file party members. After securing the support of five LDP factions, led respectively by Hiroyuki Hosoda, Taro Aso, Fumio Kishida, Toshihiro Nikai and Nobuteru Ishihara, Abe won 329 of the 405 votes from LDP lawmakers, against 73 votes for Ishiba. Voting from rank-and-file party members closed on Wednesday. Abe won 224 votes of the 405 votes available from rank-and-file party members, while Ishiba won 181. At a press conference later on the same day, Abe said he intends to reshu


By The Japan News
September 21, 2018

Opinion, Politics

A land with no smiles

The Thai middle class’ Faustian bargain with the military is hampering true democracy in the country. Almost ten years ago, I met a protester on the streets of Bangkok. It was a time of protest and political instability with the drama between the government and protesters spilling out onto the streets. To protect his identity against possible military reprisal, let us call him Nadech. Nadech will unlikely be recorded in history books, he was not a political leader, nor a despotic general or any other archetype of Thai history. He was a simple junk-store hawker, an occupation that involves going from house to house and sorting garbage to sell. His family had done well enough through grit and hard work to open a small convenience store in his home province. Nadech had taken to the streets in 2010 because he had believed the promises that exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had made and had seen, fi


By Cod Satrusayang
September 21, 2018

Opinion, Politics

New airport construction adds to China’s influence in the Maldives

Maldives airport opened a new runway constructed by China this week, a sign of Beijing’s growing influence on the island nation. Maldives airport opened its newly developed Code F runway at the Velana International Airport on Tuesday after two years of construction by Chinese firms. According to Chinese state media, the new runway is a milestone project of the Belt and Road Initiative. The contract for the airport expansion, including the development of the fuel farm, a cargo terminal, and the new runway, was signed between China and the Maldives in 2014, Xinhua News Agency reported. Constructed by Beijing Urban Construction Group, a large international construction group based in China, the new runway is 3,400 meters long and 60 meters wide. It is the latest push by China to gain influence over the politically troubled nation. Earlier this year, Maldivian President Abdulla Y


By Cod Satrusayang
September 20, 2018

Opinion, Politics

Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif released from jail

Nawaz Sharif and his family were released from Adiala jail on Wednesday after the Islamabad High Court suspended their respective prison sentences in the Avenfield corruption case earlier in the day. PML-N Pr


By Dawn
September 20, 2018