India lost no time in sending aircraft to Kathmandu carrying disaster response forces, medical teams, food, medicines and rescue equipment. China promptly flew in rescue teams, sniffer dogs, medical equipment, tents, blankets and generators.
The competition for influence in Nepal between the Asian giants is not new, but it appears to have escalated in recent years.
Nepal’s ties with India run deep and are often, according to many, schizophrenic. Many in Nepal – including the Maoists – have criticised its “semi-colonial” relationship with India, spoken about Indian “expansionism” and pointed to how their impoverished country had become India’s “bonded market”. Indian traders have controlled much of the lucrative parts of Nepal’s economy. Asymmetrical water sharing treaties, many argue, have allowed downstream irrigation benefits for India. Nepalese opposition parties, playing the nationalist card, have sometimes thrived on anti-India rhetoric; and Maoists have derided other mainstream parties as India’s brokers.
Is China’s growing role in Nepal making India skittish? Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the neighbourhood his foreign policy priority and sphere of influence. India, clearly, wants to minimise Chinese influence in the neighbourhood. No wonder then that the pace and scale with which Mr Modi reacted to the tragedy was rather unprecedented. “There is a feeling in India that Nepal cannot be allowed to go China’s way,” says Mr Pant. “There is a feeling that China has made too many inroads into Nepal.”
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