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After snubbing India, Nepal to join military drill with China

Kathmandu, Sep 12 (UNI) Just days after backing out from the week-long military exercise of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries in India, Nepal has reportedly decided to take part in a 12-day long military exercise with China, the media reports here said.
Nepal Army spokesperson Brig Gen Gokul Bhandaree told that the joint exercise with China (Sagarmatha Friendship-2) will take place from 17-28 September in Chengdu and the main focus of the exercise would be counter-terror operations.
India has expressed its displeasure with Nepal over its decision to not join the BIMSTEC exercise and has told Kathmandu that its decision is not appropriate.
According to another report, New Delhi has informed Kathmandu that its explanation of internal political pressure was "not convincing".
The Nepal government reportedly made the decision after strong criticism from different quarters, including influential leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party.
The timing of the two decisions is significant because they come at a time when Nepal has finalised the Transit and Transportation Agreement with China, which will allow Kathmandu vital access to Beijing's sea and land ports.
The agreement said that China had also agreed to allow Nepal use its dry (land) ports at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse as well as roads to these facilities.
Commerce ministry official Rabi Shankar Sainju said that Nepali cargo from Japan, South Korea and other north Asian countries could be routed through China which would cut shipping time and costs.
Overland trade is now routed mainly through the east Indian port of Kolkata which takes up to three months, officials said.
The Himalayan nation seeks to end India’s monopoly over its trading routes by increasing connections with Beijing. At present, it depends heavily on India for the supply of essential goods including fuel and the use of its ports for trade with other countries.
Kathmandu has sought access to Chinese ports to reduce dependence on India since a prolonged blockade of its border crossings with India in 2015 and 2016 left the country short of fuel and medicine for several months. This is not surprising considering Nepal's prime minister KP Sharma Oli is largely known for his 'pro-China' stance.
UNi XC-SNU 1549
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