06:09 GMT12 April 2021
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    Close on the heels of Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan’s visit to Nepal, India’s Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat embarked on a four-day visit to Nepal to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — On the first day of his visit, Gen Rawat was conferred the Honorary General rank of the Nepal Army by Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari, who handed over an insignia, a sword and a certificate to the visiting Army chief.

    India and Nepal have the tradition since 1950 of decorating each other's army chiefs with the honorary general rank.

    The Indian Army chief met Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Defense Minister Bal Krishna Khan and Nepali Army chief General Rajendra Chhetri. Gen Rawat handed over seven horses to his Nepalese counterpart.

    General Rawat's visit will strengthen defense cooperation between the two countries and foster more frequent high-level military exchanges between the two neighbors.

    The Indian Army chief's visit to Nepal just after the visit of Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan is not merely a coincidence. India had earlier raised its unhappiness at Nepal's growing proximity with China and the upcoming China-Nepal joint military exercise.

    "China's closeness is definitely raising alarming bells in the Indian establishment, therefore, India is trying to curtail the Chinese sphere of influence. India has learned a lesson from the earlier Oli-led government during which Indian influence shrank a lot due to the pro-China policy of KP Sharma Oli," Dr Sudhir Singh, Professor in Delhi University, told Sputnik.

    In spite of India's apprehensions, Nepal has made it clear that Delhi and Kathmandu have ancient ties that no other country can compete with.

    "India-Nepal relationship is embedded into the socio-cultural milieu of each other. Further, India and Nepal has deep rooted cultural bonding which is unique. Due to the changing geopolitical situation, Nepal is becoming closer to another neighbour China but it doesn't mean that Nepal will go China's way," Kamal Chenoy, Professor, JNU told Sputnik.

    In fact, India's Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh had earlier said that every country has the right to engage any other nation, and like the Nepal-China military exercise, India also has regular military exchanges with Nepal.




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