An enclaved country of about 29 million inhabitants, Nepal sits between two huge economic giant nations China and India.
Due to its strategic location, Beijing is constantly striving to expand its influence in the Himalayan country. In May 2017, Nepal and China, led by then-Prime Minister of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal, signed a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The bilateral agreement was supposed to bring rapid infrastructure development to the country. However, no specific project was pursued. Five years have passed since the BRI was signed, and not a single project has been completed.
Observers say Beijing intends to use Nepali territory to facilitate its expansion plans.In early 2019, Nepal proposed nine different projects to be built under the Belt and Road Initiative. This includes a feasibility study on connecting the Trans-Himalayan Railway, extending the 400 kV transmission line, establishing a technical university in Nepal, and building new roads, tunnels and hydroelectric power stations.
Growing concerns about funding and transparency have left these projects at a standstill. However, China stuck to indirect advance tactics. Many Chinese believe they are agents of the Chinese government, have operations in the capital Kathmandu, and are reported to be involved in illegal activities. Criminal networks, fraud, illegal trade and wildlife smuggling by Chinese are rapidly increasing in Nepal. Not only does this raise issues of law and order in Nepal, but it is also a security threat to neighboring India as the two countries share her 1,087-mile porous border.
If the incidents continue, there will be increase in the chances of turning Nepal into a fertile land for the Chinese people to plan and execute.
China’s growing political and economic influence in Nepal also worries the United States. To counter Beijing’s plans in the Himalayan country, the United States and Nepal signed a new Development Goals Agreement in May this year. The United States, through the United States Agency for International Development, will support Nepal’s goal of becoming a middle-income country. to provide USD 659 million over five years.
Nepal has good relations with China, the United States and India, and has maintained an implicit policy of leveraging the competitiveness of its major economics , but now the expansionist China on the one hand and friendly India an the US on the other.