Nepal to join military drill with China after ditching BIMSTEC: report

Chen Zhuo

Source: domain-b

Nepal, which pulled out of a joint military exercise with littoral nations of the Bay of Bengal, in a snub to India, is now all set to participate in a 12-day-long military exercise with China later this month.

The second Nepal-China military drill will take place after Nepal boycotted the first-ever joint military exercise by the BIMSTEC countries held in India.

A Times of India report quoting Nepal Army spokesperson Brig Gen Gokul Bhandaree said on Monday that the military exercise with China, called Sagarmatha Friendship-2, is scheduled to take place from 17 to 28 September in Chengdu in China.

He said that the main focus of the exercise will be on the counter-terror operations.

The China-Nepal joint military exercise, which started for the first time last year, had sparked concerns in India over the growing security cooperation between its two neighbours.

This time it is more worrisome as the second Nepal-China military exercise takes place after the Nepal government ordered its military to pull out from the first-ever joint military exercise by the Bimstec countries.

The TOI report quoted sources as suggesting that Nepal does not agree with India’s attempts to promote security and defence cooperation within Bimstec countries.

Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli's aide Kundan Aryal made the announcement regarding Nepal’s non-participation in the Bimstec exercise last week, barely a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the "multi-national military field training exercise" at the Bimstec summit held in Kathmandu last month.

Nepal’s decision to withdraw from the Bimstec joint military exercise comes just after China granted it access to four seaports and three land ports, in a move to reduce Nepal's dependency on India. Nepal will now have access to Shenzen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang, and Tianjin, as well as use Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse land ports (dry ports).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, and Chief Minister of Tripura Biplab Kumar Deb on Monday jointly inaugurated three projects in Bangladesh, via video conference.

These projects include: 500 MW additional power supply from India to Bangladesh, through the existing Bheramara (Bangladesh) - Baharampur (India) interconnection; Akhaura-Agartala Rail Link; and Rehabilitation of the Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of Bangladesh Railways.

Recalling his meetings with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina several times in the recent past, Modi reiterated his view that leaders of neighbouring countries should have a relationship like neighbours.

He said this closeness is evident in the frequent interactions between him and the Bangladesh Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Modi recalled Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s vision of restoring connectivity to the way it was before 1965. He said that he is happy that in the last few years, there has been steady progress towards this goal. He said that today, we have increased our power connectivity, and started two projects to increase our railway connectivity.

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