After Nepal signed up for China’s economic strategy, Chinese foreign policy experts have claimed that it will force India to join in the future or face isolation, The Indian Express reported on Saturday. Interestingly, India is the only South Asian country that has not joined China’s ambitious One Belt One Road framework agreement so far. In a move that may worry India, Nepal, on Friday, inked a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the OBOR initiative which links Asia with Europe. The decision to sign the agreement comes ahead of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) forum in Beijing on May 14 and 15. Heads of state of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar will attend the forum as will high-level delegations from Bangladesh and Nepal, agencies reported.
Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong and Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Bairagi signed a MoU at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singhadurbar, Kathmandu. Nepal’s deputy Prime Minister, minister of Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara and minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat were present during the signing ceremony, PTI reported. Nepal officials have said this will open new vistas for enhanced Chinese investment in the country, which will also reduce Nepal’s trade deficit.
Meanwhile, Nepal is the last country in the South Asian region to sign into OBOR with the exception of Bhutan, but it has no diplomatic ties with China. Additionally, India is yet to finalise its attendance at the forum and is reserved about the initiative, citing sovereignty issues over China’s involvement in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
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On India’s confirmation on participation in the forum, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told IE, “As far as I know, there are Indian scholars participating in relevant activities during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.” Meanwhile, Chinese experts warned that India may be isolated in the region, despite its considerable influence, in the near future, if its stance on ties with China continued.
Hu Shisheng, Director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told IE that if India does not participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, something all her neighbours are positive about, then the neighbours will have a cause to complain. He said that it is not constructive for India and will reduce its appeal in the region. He claimed that northern states in India will benefit from the Nepal-China agreement, and it may even compel the Indian government to reconsider its stance on OBOR.