As Nepal and India are squabbling over what constitutes blockade and what does not, China has sent across a message that it will do every thing possible to steer Nepal off the humanitarian crisis looming larger over it.
Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, in charge of foreign affairs, has managed to extract promises for sufficient supply of fuel now and in hours of need in future, under a clearly defined trade and ‘Transit’ treaty which means Nepal’s will for some kind of access to trade with third countries though China as well, is likely to be granted.
Thapa, currently on a week long official trip of China said, “China has asked its petroleum export authority to explore long term trade of petroleum products with Nepal.” While his visit appears more of exploratory in nature, Nepal government appears determined not to depend on India alone, for supply of fuels.
In the process what Thapa said probably was not a slip of tongues as it conveyed much deeper meaning that will have a bearing on Nepal–India relations as well. “Nepal and China share a special relations,” he said. The word special is something so far used by Indian authorities to define its relations with Nepal, mostly, dictated by deep emotions, and at times condescendingly. But this is the first time the word ‘special’ has been used to describe its relations with China by Nepal. Thapa, however, added that Nepal does not need to play one neighbor against another as its has its ‘own type’ of relations with India as well.
However, Thapa’s brief visit brings other messages of growing proximity between China and Nepal. The two sides decided to have visa fee for Chinese tourists waved. With mandarin taught in more than a hundred schools in Nepal currently, and Chinese willing to encourage its tourists to Nepal, the move will have much wider significance.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while promising all help to Nepal, also said China respected Nepal ‘s sovereignty irrespective of its size and expected India to act in the same manner. “China does not expect Nepal to be a sports field for competitive games,” he said, with clear message that Nepal needs to negotiate separately with India, to address the current spell of misunderstanding and resultant crisis.