Pakistan and Nepal Relations

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Nepal officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked state in South Asia. It is mainly situated in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, bordering Tibet of China to the north, and India in the south, east, and west, while it is narrowly separated from Bangladesh by the Siliguri Corridor, and from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal and Pakistan shared long historical linkages as both Himalayan states located in the Indian subcontinent. Nepal and Pakistan developed diplomatic relations in March 1960. The bilateral relations were then fully established between 1962 and 1963, erstwhile East Pakistan (Bangladesh) was surrounded by Indian Territory from three sides, and also shared a small part of its boundary with Nepal and hence good relations with Nepal were crucial for Pakistan. Both nations have since sought to expand their bilateral trade, strategic and military cooperation. In the words of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Z.A. Bhutto, “Nepal is to Pakistan, what Afghanistan is to India, Nepal’s proximity to East Pakistan and the vital states of Sikkim and Bhutan and the province of Assam with its Naga and Mizo freedom fighters give Nepal a high place in the calculations of Pakistan’s foreign policy.” In 1962 Nepal established a residential Embassy in Islamabad and Honorary Nepali Consulate General in Karachi in 1975. In 1963, an agreement was signed between Pakistan and Nepal to provide free trade and transit facilities from the Chittagong port of East Pakistan, later in the same year, an air link was also established with East Pakistan. Although during the 1971 war of India and Pakistan, Nepal adopted a neutral posture it soon recognized the newly independent Bangladesh and this led Pakistan to break diplomatic ties with Kathmandu which were later re-established.

Nepal has always remained an important regional SAARC partner, as well as in the context of countering any hegemonic design that has anti-Pakistan nuance.  Periodic exchanges of visits at various levels have strengthened bilateral relations. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif visited Nepal to attend the 18th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu on 26-27 November 2014. Earlier, then Foreign Minister of Nepal Mr. Mahendra Bahadur Pandey had visited Pakistan on 23-24 October 2014 to hand over the invitation from the Prime Minister of Nepal to the Pakistani Prime Minister to attend the Summit. Similarly, Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi paid an official visit to Nepal on 5-6 March 2018. This was a bilateral visit by a Pakistani head of state after a long gap of two decades. Pakistan’s Prime Minister along with emphasizing Nepal and Pakistan’s relations during his visit also talked about China’s BRI and CPEC project and its benefits for regional development. Recently, Nepal attended a nine-nation webinar on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), in which the experts stressed the need to strengthen multilateral cooperation, promote the multibillion-dollar project and reject any notion of a “New Cold War”. The extraordinary conference, titled “Belt and Road Cooperation: “Promoting People-to-People Bond”, aimed at regional economic connectivity was hosted by the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI). Observing that the “Asian Century” needed BRI to progress, Pakistan and China during a conference called for strengthening multilateral cooperation and promoting the multibillion-dollar project saying it represented shared interests of the Asian countries. The political meetings between the two nations mostly happen at the SAARC summits, purely bilateral visits are rare. The latest Foreign Secretary-level Nepal Pakistan bilateral political consultation was concluded in Islamabad on 25th February 2020, the meeting was scheduled in 2019 but Nepal has then canceled the meeting citing rising India Pakistan tensions. As differences are rising between India and Nepal regarding numerous issues, Pakistan and China both are taking up this opportunity to cement their ties further with Nepal. The bilateral relations between the two countries are based on goodwill, mutual cooperation and support. Both countries hold similar views on many issues of common interests at various international and regional forums. Pakistan fully supports Nepal’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity as a matter of prime importance. This in view, Pakistan has repeatedly assured Nepal of its total political support and adherence to the principles of non-interference in internal affairs. Within the South Asian region, under SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Pakistan extended anti-pandemic medical equipment and other assistance to the SAARC member states, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives. Most recently, the SAARC secretary-general visited Islamabad and Pakistan reaffirmed its willingness to host the 19th summit of the forum. Pakistan regretted that the prospects of durable peace and stability in the region, and the great potential for economic development and regional cooperation had been held hostage by the hegemonic and hostile behaviour of India.

As such, it is described earlier that the political developments in Nepal as its internal matter and express confidence that Nepal would effectively overcome transient difficulties. For its part, Nepal has considered Pakistan as an important player in the region vis-à-vis India. However, given the extent of Indian influence and India’s penetration in the country, its desire to come closer to Pakistan is restricted. Lack of geographical proximity and India-locked status makes things further difficult for the two countries. No wonder, our relations lack the desired substance that could have been translated into meaningful leverage and influence in Nepal. In recent years, both countries began developing military cooperation, with Nepal importing arms from Pakistan. Condemned and isolated from India, Great Britain and the United States between 2004 and 2006 for repressing democracy, the Nepalese monarchy developed military cooperation with China and Pakistan, who offered extensive military support, arms and military equipment to Nepal for the monarchy to stay in power and fight the Maoist insurgency. This is the era of economic integration and digitalization, both states are developing strong ties in the economic field and joint trade relations. Last but not the least, Nepal and Pakistan both have untapped potential in tourism. Further, bilateral cooperation will also help to promote the soft image of both states at the international level. Moreover, under CPEC and BRI, the landlocked state Nepal can get benefits of easy excess to the world.

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