India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is visiting Nepal on Friday to lay the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, the first to Nepal by an Indian PM in 17 years. The trip is meant to help India regain the influence it has lost in the landlocked country over the past decade. Reuters has the report:
India is set to offer Nepal a landmark pact to help develop its huge hydro-electric power potential as the South Asian giant takes another step to re-assert influence among smaller neighbours where China has been forging closer ties.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who went to Bhutan last month on his first overseas trip since coming to power, will soon visit Nepal, which has recently been questioning its position in India’s sphere of influence.
China’s investment in Nepal has risen dramatically over the past few years, including heavy investment in Nepal’s languid power industry, and recently announced plans to lengthen a railway in Tibet so that it reaches the borders of India, Bhutan, and Nepal. Modi has promised a more assertive foreign policy to make up for the Congress party’s decade-long policy paralysis. For now, that means keeping China’s regional designs in check and furthering India’s own.Nepalis may welcome a boost to the country’s power industry: The country suffers blackouts for up to 18 hours a day. However, they have also been wary of alleged Indian meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs. “The draft [of the hydro-electric power deal] impinges on the sovereign right of Nepal to allow investors other than India in the development of hydropower and renewable energy,” said a former Nepali water resources minister, Lakshman Ghimire.India and China may both have to struggle in the near future to win hearts and minds—and contracts—in Nepal.