Nepal’s decision to skip the BIMSTEC military drill has posed a big question mark over the Indian government’s diplomatic adventurism pushing for the revival of the seven-member BIMSTEC in place of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) in a bid to marginalize Pakistan in the region.
Nepal and Thailand are participating only as observers in the “Milex-2018” anti-terror military drill which began in Pune, India on Monday. While Nepal pulled back from the drill following strong protests from political parties in the country, including that of ruling Communist Party of Nepal; Thailand cited “prior commitments” as the reason for not attending.
The drill is an initiative proposed by India to strengthen the joint anti-terror mechanism of the seven-member BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) that includes India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. However, many see it as India’s effort to further dilute the relevance of SAARC in order to isolate Pakistan.
The Nepali Army earlier confirmed that it would participate in the drill. However, only three days prior to the commencement of the drill, Prime Minister KP Oli, conveyed to the army that Nepal’s participation was being canceled. Oli’s decision is understood to have been prompted by strong oppostion from political parties including his own Nepal Communist Party (NCP), widely considered pro-China.