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Nepal scaled down drills with China due to India: Chinese media

10-day joint military exercise, named Sagarmatha Friendship 2017, started in Nepal from April 16

Press Trust of India  |  Beijing 

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has scaled down the size of its first-ever military exercise with after facing strong opposition from India, state-run Chinese media claimed on Friday.

The 10-day joint military exercise, code-named '2017', commenced in from April 16.

"It was said the two countries initially planned to hold a battalion-scale military exercises. However, facing a strong opposition from India, had to compress the size of the military exercise and change the venue to a military school," an article in the state-run Global Times said.

"For Nepal, the joint military exercise has a deeper significance. For starters, it shows that moves forward in its pursuit of a balanced diplomacy among major powers. Since the 1990s, balanced diplomacy has become the basic principle of Nepal's foreign strategy, which is established based on Nepal's nationalism and anti-Indian sentiment," the article said.

Chinese official media has been expressing its frustration over the fall of pro-Nepalese Prime Minister who was replaced by

For China, the fall of the Oli regime was a big disappointment and a setback to its planned big push into through Tibet with rail and highway linkages to expand its influence in the landlocked country which was dependent on for all its supplies, according to analysts.

sought to improve ties with much to the chagrin of Beijing.

"Nepal's dependence on in political, economic, cultural and other aspects as well as India's ambition to make its sphere of influence has made most people in fear losing their independence as Sikkim did," the article claimed.

"Holding joint military exercises with can contribute to deterring ethnic separatism in Nepal," it said without elaborating.

has expressed its backing for Nepal's new constitution which was strongly resisted by Madhesis over fears that it marginalised their political and constitutional rights.

"It is a normal development for to hold a military exercise with as is China's friendly neighbour. There are many countries which have held joint military exercises, including India, with South Asia is a terrorism-prone region. Now that and have developed closer economic relations, hopes to join China's Belt and Road initiative, for which regional security and stability is a necessity," it said.

The joint military exercise shows that the "bilateral diplomatic relations have expanded from political, economic and cultural to the field of military defence. But for China, this is just one aspect of the overall security outlook proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping".

"has taken a cautious attitude to avoid provoking The drill does not violate the Treaty of Peace and Friendship inked by and in 1950," it said.

"Due to geographic, political, economic, historic, religious and cultural factors, has wielded much bigger influence over than cannot cut its economic ties with India," it said.

views small South Asian countries such as and Bhutan as its "sphere of influence and a strategic buffer zone against China".

"It sees their relations with from a geopolitical standpoint and a Cold-War mentality," it said.

"Given the rise of nationalism in India, especially the prevalence of nationalistic sentiments among India's diplomatic circles, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a tough policy since assuming office. is concerned about China's economic cooperation with South Asia and the region around the Indian Ocean and wants to push back China's influence," it claimed.

Over the past two years, "has raised a couple of unreasonable requests toward and imposed pressure on China, dragging the Sino-Indian relations into a vicious cycle".

If New Delhi does not change its mentality, it will be "paranoid" about every cooperation between and South Asian countries, it said.

"has a clear-cut approach toward China-Nepal-trilateral relations. It hopes can become a bridge between and By pushing forward the China-Nepal- economic corridor, it can boost development in all three countries. No matter how views cooperation between and Nepal, such cooperation will continue to expand, as it fits the interests of both peoples," it said.

Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari is in on her first overseas tour. She arrived on a five-day trip to on April 17.

First Published: Fri, April 21 2017. 19:33 IST