September 2021 Analysis: International Relations and Foreign Affairs

Posted by : Lumana Upreti


Date : 2021-10-29

The newly appointed foreign minister Dr. Narayan Khadka emphasized on building national consensus amongst party regarding foreign relations. The foreign minister participated in the 76th United Nations General Assembly where he shed light on various issues such as climate change, Nepal’s position of terrorism and disarmament, and working towards graduating from the Least Developed Country (LDC) by 2026. He also believes that Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) will lead country to prosperity and discarding MCC will deplete Nepal’s credibility. Further, regarding the Darchula incident, India has not officially responded to Nepal’s diplomatic note. Added, the taskforce sent on behalf of Nepal government to study border dispute in Humla has submitted the report. The task force found that certain boundary pillars were rebuilt and fenced without Nepal’s consent.

Timeline of Major Events

Date Event
September 17 4.4 million doses of the Vero Cell vaccine from china have reached Nepal.
September 24 Chinese Red Cross provided 100,000 doses of the Vero Cell vaccine to Nepal Red cross
October (first week) Nepal will receive two million doses of the Covid shield vaccine in the first week of October.
Date uncertain The government is anticipating over 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine through COVAX soon

Nepal Appoints New Foreign Minister

After assuming the office of the Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba has been struggling to form a cabinet owing to the issues with the coalition alliances. The position of foreign minister remained vacant for two months; in the meantime, Deuba was heading the foreign ministry. After a long wait, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari appointed senior Nepali Congress leader Dr. Narayan Khadka as Nepal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on the government’s recommendation on September 22.

Minister Khadka, in a press conference, stated that he would endeavor to maintain highly warm, friendly, amiable, and balanced relations with both China and India. He further stated that the country’s foreign policy is not unique to any one political party, and he will seek to build national consensus amongst all the parties on issues relating to foreign relations.

Nepal Participates in UN General Assembly

Newly appointed foreign minister Khadka represented Nepal in the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York. While addressing the UNGA, he underlined a few things, such as Nepal’s commitment to overcoming climate change, graduating from the LDC category by 2026. He also shared that Nepal denounces all forms of terrorism, and he stressed the importance of safeguarding human rights. He further enunciated that Nepal’s foreign policy is premised on the principles of the UN Charter, non-alignment, international law, and norms of world peace.

Further, Minister Khadka acknowledged that MCC could not be amended at this stage on the UNGA sideline event in New York. He stated that national consensus on the agreement is essential; however, spreading erroneous information was wrong. He also said MCC is in the country’s interest, and declining MCC would question Nepal’s credibility.

Besides, Minister Khadka also held a bilateral meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart on September 26. During the meeting, the two discussed the necessity to improve cooperation in trade, investment, hydropower, and cross-border energy trade.

Minister Khadka appears to have adopted “Amity with all enmity with none”; nonetheless, balancing China’s interest while embracing MCC will be an onerous task.

Indo-Nepal Relations

A 33-year-old Nepali national returning home to Darchula via improvised cable crossing locally known as Tuin went missing on July 30 after India’s Sashastra Seema Bal allegedly detached the Tuin. Nepal refrained from giving any strong reaction regarding the incident. Rather Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) admonished everyone to apply caution while reporting the incident as it is a geopolitically sensitive issue. Nevertheless, there were protests, and a dummy of the Indian Prime Minister burnt. Nepal government formed a probe committee to investigate the incident. However, Nepal received no cooperation from the Indian side even after seeking the same.

Nepal’s government probed the case and submitted the report to the MoHA on September 2. The government has not disclosed the details yet. The ministry released a statement stating that the report recommended taking diplomatic initiatives with India. The government initially was reluctant to take a position even after the report was submitted.

However, On September 3, the Nepal government finally sent a diplomatic note to India after receiving much flak from the coalition partners. The note urged the Indian government to probe the matter and compensate the family for the loss. On receiving the diplomatic note, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson stated that they were unaware of the incident. Also, no official communication regarding the same was corresponded. India has not formally responded to the diplomatic note, displaying its nonchalance in handling the situation.

This incident yet again highlighted the outlook of India towards Nepal. While this incident received extensive coverage in Nepali media, Indian media have shown callousness in reporting the same, providing insight into how India perceives Nepal. India seems to have developed a tendency to evade any issue that puts India in an uncomfortable position. For example, the Kalapani dispute is left unresolved.

India is actively engaging with Nepal in the trade and economic domain. There are multiple instances, such as Managing Director of Nepal Electricity Authority Kulman Ghising signed an MOU with India’s state-run Power Grid Corporation on September 8 to build a transnational 400kV transmission line from Butwal to Gorakhpur. The agreement was signed to augment the two-way electricity trade. Similarly, Nepal and India are to sign a five-year agreement for periodic monitoring and inspections of airport and radar flights.

Further, Minister Khadka met his Indian Counterpart Dr. S Jaishankar in New York. Jaishankar stated that he looked forward to strengthening his special relationship with Nepal. Anurag Srivastava, joint Secretary North at India’s MEA, reached Kathmandu on September 28. He will be meeting Nepal’s Finance Secretary, Commerce Secretary, and Acting Foreign secretary.

Nepal and India seem to enjoy smooth operations regarding most activities except when it comes to addressing Nepal’s concerns raised over a matter, in which case it attempts to brush aside pressing concerns raised by Nepal.

Nepal-China Relations

The issue of China encroaching on Nepal’s territory came to the fore last year when Congress was in opposition. After the senior congress leaders raised concern over excluding the Humla border issue from the Common Minimum Program, the issue again came to light. On September 1, Deuba announced the formation of a task force to study the border dispute in Humla. The MoHA formed a team encompassing representatives from Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and the Survey Department, led by Jaya Narayan Acharya, a joint secretary at the Home Ministry, to study border issues with China. The task force submitted the report to MoHA on September 26. The task force found that certain boundary pillars were rebuilt and fenced without Nepal’s consent. The report recommends that the government take necessary action to inspect the area diplomatically and jointly.

Nevertheless, convincing China to agree to inspect the disputed area will be difficult bilaterally. China maintains its stance firmly that there is no border dispute between China and Nepal, to which earlier Nepal concurred hastily despite the lack of formal proof. Nepal’s previous assertion concerning the border has already weakened Nepal’s position regarding its new claim.