India, Nepal vow to deepen ties as China’s influence looms large

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Nepal’s prime minister met his Indian counterpart on Saturday during a three-day trip to New Delhi and signed a slew of agreements to enhance their ties, as the Himalayan nation also deepens relations with India’s rival China.

Sher Bahadur Deuba met Narendra Modi in his first foreign trip since becoming Nepal’s prime minister last year after the fall of a Communist government in Kathmandu.

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The leaders discussed the bilateral relations and later virtually waved flags at the inaugural run of passenger train services between the neighbors. They said at a joint news briefing they planned to deepen their cross-border engagement.

The visit comes amid growing concerns among India’s strategic experts that New Delhi is losing influence over the Himalayan country to rival China, which has been showering Nepal with investments in infrastructure development and helping with millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic.

It is tradition for Nepalese prime ministers soon after taking over office to visit the southern neighbor India, which has always had major political and economic influence over Nepal.

The visit is seen as an opportunity for Deuba to renew relations with Indian leaders and also for Indian leadership to try regaining their clout.

Deuba’s trip comes on the heels of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Kathmandu and approval by Nepal of a contentious half-billion-dollar aid grant from the United States, apparently to counter Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Nepal is surrounded on three sides by India with open borders allowing traffic into each other’s territories without passports or visas. Landlocked Nepal imports most of its food, supplies and oil from India.

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