Nepal declines India’s invite to attend BIMSTEC conclave

India expressed its displeasure at Nepal for merely being an observer in a joint military exercise of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Corporation (BIMSTEC) which has started on Monday. According to the sources, New Delhi told Kathmandu about its decision is not appropriate and its explanation of internal political pressure is “not convincing”. Nepal’s decision conveyed on Friday has put India and the regional grouping in an “embarrassing position”.

The contingents from armies of five of seven BIMSTEC countries began its week-long military exercise at Aundh in Pune. This year India is hosting BIMSTEC military exercise for the first time with participatory countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Officially, neither the Ministry of External Affairs nor the Ministry of Defence has yet commented on the issue of Nepal’s withdrawal as a full participant. A government official said on condition of anonymity that participation depended entirely on the comfort level of participating countries.

Nepal’s decision to pull out came just over a week after Kathmandu hosted a significant summit of BIMSTEC countries, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BIMSTEC member states include India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. The exercise opened on Monday. An army spokesperson said its aim was to enhance BIMSTEC cooperation in planning and conduct of counter-terrorist operations. “The exercise schedule is focused upon learning of best practices, team building & special tactical level operations in a counter-terrorist environment in semi-urban setting.”

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