KATHMANDU: A day after China agreed to provide sea and land ports to Nepal and end India's monopoly over trade, Nepal has withdrawn from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to be held in India next week.
BIMSTEC is the first-ever joint military drill among the armies. Kundan Aryal, Press Adviser to Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Saturday told Xinhua news agency that Nepal will not be a part of the joint military drill to be organized in Maharashtra's Pune from September 10-16.
"Nepal will not participate in the BIMSTEC joint military drill. This is the official decision of the government," he said, without giving details about the reasons behind the decision.
The decision was made by the Nepali government amid growing criticism from multiple quarters over the country's participation in the first ever military drill among the armies of BIMSTEC members, officials confirmed.
Earlier on September 3rd, Nepal said that there was no discussion held or agreement reached during the recently concluded 4th BIMSTEC summit on holding a joint military exercise of the member states.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said the matter of holding joint military exercise has not been incorporated in any mechanism of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit hosted by Nepal on August 30 and 31 in Kathmandu.
Briefing the International Relations Committee under the House of Representatives regarding the agenda endorsed by the BIMSTEC Summit, Gyawali had earlier said that the Summit did not dwell on the issue of holding the joint military exercise as reported in the media.
The BIMSTEC member countries include India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan- countries which are dependent on the Bay of Bengal. It was founded in 1997. The grouping accounts for 22 percent of the global population, and has a combined gross domestic product of USD 2.8 trillion.
The news of Nepal's withdrawal from the joint military drill comes a day after China on Friday extended its support by providing four seaports and three land ports to former, cutting India's monopoly over trade.
Nepal will be able to access Shenzen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang and Tianjin, the latter being the nearest seaport at a distance of around 3,300 kms from the Nepalese border, according to foreign ministry sources here.
Nepal has been allowed to use Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse land ports (dry ports) as well. This will provide alternative routes for Nepal to carry out international trade.
The deal has paved the way for Nepal, which had been relying on Indian ports as of now, to diversify its access to seaports and alternative routes for third-country trade.
(With Agency Inputs)