April 2023 Analysis: International Relations & Foreign Affairs

Posted by : Shila Devi Parajuli


Date : 2023-04-30

On the international front, there were official visits from Nepal to China and UK. Nepal also officially assumed the group of LDCs, led by Ambassador Amrit Bahadur Rai. The visit of PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal expected to happen in April has been delayed again until June. And there were two different consultation mechanisms meetings between Nepal & China and Nepal & UK respectively; the 15th Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism meeting on 7th of April and the 6th meeting of Nepal-UK Bilateral Consultation Mechanism meeting on 26th April, both led by Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bharat Raj Paudyal. 

Timeline of Major Events

Date Events
6th April Nepal assumed the Chairmanship of the Global Coordination Bureau of LDCs
7th April 15th Nepal-China Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism
18th & 19th April  Power Summit ’23 held in Kathmandu
26th April 6th meeting of Nepal-UK Bilateral Consultation Mechanism


The Common Minimum Program (CMP) of Coalition Government published on 6th April, 2023 pledges to resolve the territorial disputes in Limpiyadhura-Kalapani-Lipulekh through diplomatic channel with the concerned neighboring countries. The much expected visit of PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal to India has been postponed for second time in a row, citing internal reasons for the delay. PM would be discussing array of issues ranging from border talks, electricity trading, Kathmandu-Raxaul railway, to ending duty free access to India in primary agricultural products.

PM delay in official visit to India

The PM visit to India is meant for building confidence and trust at political level. There are few reasons for the delays in his visit. While PM is busy in managing the domestic politics, the agendas for India’s visit might not have been clear yet. From forming new Ministerial postings to unveiling CMP of Coalition Government, Dahal was found busy in mundane Nepali politics. After the appointment of new Foreign Minister N.P. Saud the agendas for the trip might come to live. Though the official state level visit is a part of inter-state mechanisms, many issues related to Nepal-India relations are unfinished and stuck.

The context of hydropower

The other subject of attention is the trading of Nepali electricity in different power markets in India. PM visit is also likely to focus on long term power trade agreement with India for 25 years. The power trading like others have been victim of geopolitics. With the delay in execution of BRI projects in Nepal, there is speculation that two big hydropower projects 480 MW Phukot Karnali and 756 MW Tamor to be handled to Indian companies. The decision to handover projects to India might also have been triggered because of Indian stance on not buying electricity from Nepal if Chinese investment is involved.

Railway connectivity

Raxaul being busiest port in Nepal in terms of volume of cargo, Kathmandu-Raxaul railway is an important connectivity route both for Nepal and India. Having finalized the Field Location Survey (FLS), the delay in the preparation of detailed project report (DPR) of the proposed Kathmandu-Raxaul railway might also delayed the visit. The railway once completed would allow Nepal direct access to India.

Power Summit and other Indian Investments

The Power Summit ’23 held in Nepal this year brought intense cooperation between Nepal and India in terms of cross-border power trade. Array of memorandum of understanding (MoU), for direct power purchase, SteelMint India P Ltd and Nepal Power Exchange Ltd agreed to launch Power Mint power index in Nepal, and two different agreement between Manikaran Power Ltd India signed MoU with Bizbell Energy Pvt, and Kasuwa Khola Hydropower Project Nepal. There were also talks regarding export of hydroelectricity between private sectors, but Nepal has not any provision for private sector electricity trading. There is also increased Indian investments in manufacturing sectors, and feasibility study for construction of petroleum and gas pipelines between Nepal and India.


Nepal-China Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism

The 15th iteration of the Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism between the Foreign Ministries of Nepal and China took place on 7th April, 2023 in Beijing. Prior to this, two consecutive meetings were held virtually owing to covid-19 pandemic. The foreign secretary of Nepal Mr. Bharat Raj Paudyal and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China H.E. Mr. Sun Weidong held the delegations. Different issues of bilateral cooperation were discussed ranging from trade, investment and tourism, cooperation in agriculture, education, and cultural sector. With the aim of reducing the trade deficit, the Nepali counterpart presented the proposal for preferential trade agreement in various agricultural products ranging from tea, coffee, herbal products, to cooked buffalo meat. There were positive regards on the tourism front. On the multilateral front the array of agendas from mutual cooperation to SDG were discussed.

The forgotten BRI and other flagship initiative

The press meet indicates building connectivity and expanding infrastructure projects, but doesn’t explicitly cite the BRI aspects, which includes array of road and railway connectivity. Regarding the delay of different infrastructural projects led by Chinese firms, China has agreed to intensify the execution of the same. With the disagreement over funding modalities, the fate of Chinese infrastructure projects under BRI are in limbo with none being implemented. The delegation also discussed on exchange of mutual support to each other’s candidatures, but the Nepalese decision on Global Security Initiative (GSI) is still not tangible owing to the geopolitical sensitivity and its policy of non-alignment. Also, Nepal’s foreign policy prohibits it from being under any security umbrella. After huge silence of BRI in Nepal, China has brought forward Global Development Index (GDI), and two projects has been selected as a part of first batch. Nepal is also in study phase as concerned with another Chinese initiative, Global Civilization Initiative (GCI.) 

Border Control: Unilateral to Bilateral

The talks about preferential trade agreement on agricultural products which comes after the First Meeting of Nepal-China Coordination Mechanism on Border Trade and Cooperation is noteworthy. China’s unilateral and stringent control of Nepali borders have always been the issue for Nepali traders in bordering districts in the past. The fact that out of six functional border points, only two have been functional for commercial trade exemplify the fragility of Nepal-China border relations.

The talks on opening of border comes at the coinciding time, Puspha Kamal Dhala being elected as PM and the arrival of Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Mr. Chen Song. China in spirit of capitalizing the communist leader, the negotiations on opening borders have been intensified.

The forgotten Chinese assistance

During different official level visit between Nepal and China since 2008, China has been pledging to provide assistance to Nepal. But Nepal hasn’t received such assistance because of the lack of interest and ignorance from Nepal government to utilize such assistance. As Chinese assistance comes through government-to-government channel, politicians and bureaucrats cannot profit from them, thus delaying the assistance, says former Chinese Ambassador of Nepal to China, Leela Mani Paudyal.

Explosives arrives from China

Nepal has always been the victim of India-China geopolitical tussle, so in the case of explosives. After reluctance from India to provide commercial explosives for Chinese funded projects or that involves Chinese engagement, Nepal imported 90 tons of explosives from China. It’s after long that explosives have come from China.


Nepal and United Kingdom held the sixth meeting of Nepal-UK Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on 26th April in Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London. Different issues of bilateral interests including trade, investments, development cooperation, and Ex-Gurkha concerns among others were discussed. There was also talks regarding unitization and channelization of two investment windows, British International Investment (BII) and British Investments Partnership (BIP). Nepali officials also raised the issue of deportation of more than 100 Nepali guard deportation to UK, and secret repatriation to Nepal.
The United Kingdom has been one of the major development partner in bilateral front. The United Kingdom had disbursed fifth-highest ODA in FY 2020/21, accounting for 4.98 percent of total ODA was provided. It has been providing ODA in arrays of sectors like health, home affairs, education, reconstruction and environment, science and technology.

Nepal in Multilateral Forums

Nepal presence in UN system was largely visible throughout this April. On April 3, amid the 2023 substantive session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, Mr. Amrit Rai spoke in favor of Non-Aligned Movement and requested for a world free of Nuclear Weapons and rejecting the weaponization of outer space. The nuclear arm races is a huge threat for countries like Nepal in South Asia, with India, Pakistan and China piling up the nuclear weapons.
Nepal to lead LDC before graduation from the group. On April 6, amidst a ceremony organized in UNHQ in New York, Nepal assumed the Chairmanship of the Global Coordination Bureau of LDCs. The chair would be led by Nepal’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Amrit Bahadur Rai. Nepal has pledged to protect and promote the group’s interests. Nepal’s as LDC chair would also draw a clear roadmap for Doha Program of Action and SDGs. The chair would serve as great opportunity for Nepal for addressing climate change, pandemic and regional integration. The task ahead for Nepal is to prepare for the comprehensive and robust transitional strategy and proactive negotiations with development partners.