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India and US are getting closer. Does it have any impact on Nepal?

(L-R) US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar

Recently, Nepal’s immediate neighbour India and a global superpower, the United States, have signed a crucial defence agreement termed ‘2+2’, apparently in their bid to minimise China’s influence on South Asia. With that, there are concerns if it will have any impact on Nepal.

Khadga KC, a professor at the International Relations and Diplomacy Department in the Tribhuvan University, says the recent deal between India and the US is strategically important, adding, “With this, the US has tried to give a strategic message to India’s neighbours also.”

He, however, warns, “But, there is no need to exaggerate it because the Trump administration in the US is at its last stage in office.”

Dr KC further says Nepal should not worry much as it has adopted the policy of non-alignment. It is also possible that the US may lobby with Nepal that China’s Belt and Road Initiative is not appropriate for the Himalayan republic, but Nepal needs to be independent in its decisions, according to him.

Similarly, foreign affairs expert Dinesh Bhattarai says the deal has reinforced the idea that the United States looks at Nepal through India’s eyes.

Bhattarai fears the deal could increase the tension between India and China, Nepal’s two immediate neighbours, and it could create a difficult environment for Nepal. Neither does a close partnership between India and China favour Nepal, according to him.

“For example, when India and China were in good terms, they signed an agreement on Lipulekh pass without consulting Nepal in 2015,” Bhattarai, who also worked as advisors to former PMs Sushil Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba, says.

Meanwhile, Bhattarai laments Nepal lacks preparations to tackle any situation it could face due to close or distant relations between and among powerful countries.

“Overall, big countries are becoming more active in power games. It means the coming days are more difficult for Nepal.”

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