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India Outsmarts China on OBOR When Nepals President Bidya Devi Bhandari

came to India on a five-day visit, she didnt know that her countrys northern neighbour,

China was watching her first ever foreign trip very keenly.

Bidya Devi Bhandari is a constitutional head of Nepal who has no decision making power,

yet Beijing seemed to be wary of her visit because she wore on her sleeve a very high

national symbol and it is that of President.

As per media reports, when Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aliasPrachandarecently

made a visit to China, his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping turned out to be one

which led Prachanda come out with no fond memories.

It is said that he was asked to implement all agreements signed between the two nations

when KP Oli was the Prime Minister.

No new bilateral agreement was signed between Nepal and China during Prachandas visit.

A few weeks after his arrival from China, Prachanda cleared the way for Bidya Bhandaris

visit which could not take place last year as Nepals ex-Prime Minister Oli cancelled

it in the last moment in an attempt to embarrass India.

Apart from giving red-carpet welcome which included ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati

Bhawan, Bidya Bhandari was offered all necessary helps to make her trip comfortable and memorable.

At the moment when China is leaving no stone unturned to make its forthcoming summit on

One Belt One Road(OBOR) highly successful, Indias attempt to throw all charms around

Nepal would not have given Chinese authorities a good night sleep.

India has also assured Nepal help in conducting local government body polls scheduled to be

held in May and June.

Conducting local body polls smoothly would help Prachanda strengthen his leadership further

in the background of the fact that provincial and national elections are also going to take

place later this year.

This will be the first time in 20 years that local elections will take place in the Himalayan

nation, which will pay the way for full transition of the country into republican democracy,

besides unencumbered execution of developmental agenda of the government.

But political parties in the Madhes region, Nepals plain area which is home to around

50 percent of the countrys total population, have threatened to boycott the polls to pressure

Kathmandu to address their demands, including the amendment of Nepals new Constitution.

The Prachanda government has tabled the revised Constitutional amendment bill in Parliament,

but it is not confident that whether Madhesis would welcome it or not.

It is in this view, Prime Minister Modis assurance to Prachanda of help during their

telephonic talks on April 25, assumes high significance.

These developments have yielded India apparent strategic benefits.

First of all, Nepal scaled down its first military exercise with China; the two countries

initially planned to hold a battalion-scale military exercise.

But given Indias concern, Nepal Army not only cut down the size of its military exercise

with Chinese Armys soldiers, code-namedSagarmatha Friendship 2017,� but also

changed the venue to a military school.

Secondly, Nepal has joined the league of the South Asian nations like Bangladesh, Maldives

and Bhutan which have refused to sign their memorandum of understanding for their participation

in the summit for the ambitious OBOR project.

Only Lanka and Pakistan have confirmed their participation in the conclave to be held in

Beijing on May 14-15.

India has already turned down the invitation and there is less likely that it would lower

its guard on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on which Beijing has again hiked its investment

from earlier $55 billion to $62 billion now.

More than 20 countries, including Russia have agreed to join the two-day conclave.

In the meanwhile, in the ongoing tug of war between India and China on the OBOR initiative,

seen by New Delhi as Chinas design to create facilitation for increasing its strategic

foot prints across the world, besides dumping cheap Chinese goods in to the markets of Asia,

Middle East, Africa and Europe, some South Asian countries have fallen victim to the

catch-22 situation.

The countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Myanmar which, apart

from sharing close boundaries, enjoy good relations with India, dont want to jeopardize

their bilateral engagement with Beijing as well.

Sri Lankan has already communicated to Beijing that it would be represented by Prime Minister

Ranil Wickremesinghe instead of President Sirisena at the summit.

In consonance with Indias maritime and strategic interests, Colombo has assured India

that Hambantota port, whose more than 80 percent share the Sri Lankan government could not

sell to China Merchants Port Holdings for 99 years because of stiff opposition from

public and within the government, would not be allowed to become amilitary port.�

The same assurance was given by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister during his recent visit to


Also, he had assured his Japanese interlocutors that foreign forces would not be allowed to

use Hambantota and other ports in Sri Lanka in a way inimical to the interests of other


That means Chinas design to turn Hambantota port into a strategic part of its OBOR initiative,

has been blunted.

On the other hand, India has been successful in stopping Bangladesh from being completely

swallowed away by China.

The manner Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breaking all protocols, went to the Palam airport in

New Delhi to receive Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and then extended $5 billion

worth of assistance for the purchase of defence equipment and another tranche of $4.

50 billion for the development of infrastructure, it showed that New Delhi would do anything

to restrict Dhaka from becoming another client state of China in South Asia.

After Pakistan, Bangladesh was the second-largest recipient of Chinese equipment between 2011

and 2016.

Dhaka received a pair of Ming-class Type 035B diesel electric submarines from Beijing in


In the same year (October, 2016), Xi Jinping made first ever Chinese presidential visit

in 30 years to Bangladesh.

During the visit, the two countries had signed 27 deals and MoUs totaling $13.6 billion.

China-Bangladesh ties were also elevated from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic


But playing a smart game and that too just before the planned OBOR summit to which Dhaka

is also one of the invitees, India hosted Sheikh Hasina and stymied Beijings effort

to lure Bangladesh away from Indias influence.

Sources say that one would witness its impact in the course of Dhakas representation

at the forthcoming OBOR summit in China.

They refused to elaborate on this account, but agreed to say that the initiative would

fumble and tumblein the long run, a meaning whose link can be seen in Indias

invitation to Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari before the planned summit.

It should be noted that Kathmandu has not signed the MoU for its participation in the

OBOR project even though during his recent visit to China to address the Boao Forum for

Asia, held in Henan province from March 23 to 26, Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Dahal

Prachanda was pressurized by Chinese authorities to implement all projects and schemes discussed

between the two countries.

China is not happy with the Prachanda government for its leanings towards India.

Rubbing salt to Chinas injured feeling, while Nepals Foreign Minister Prakash Chandra

Mahat has visited India six times since last year, he has not made a trip to China even


Amid this, what message Bidya Devi Bhandaris visit to India has sent to Beijing can be

well decoded when the OBOR summit takes place.

Indication is that Prachanda will not lead the Nepalese delegation at the summit.

Bhutan and Maldives will send their representation to the two-day summit, yet their participation,

according to sources, will be there for the formality sake.

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