China and Nepal will conduct their first joint military exercises in February, a move that may raise concerns in India, The Kathmandu Post reported on Friday. At a press conference on Thursday, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said the two countries had been in “initial communication” about the exercises and that more details would be announced “in due time”.
The Nepal Army also confirmed the exercises, saying that the drills would take place in the northern region of the Himalayan country. NA spokesperson Brigadier TB Karki said that while the two nations had already been “exchanging military delegations, visits and courses”, this would be the first set of drills between them. The drills are expected to focus on counter-terrorism and disaster management.
Separately, the two countries also signed a bilateral assistance agreement worth RMB 1 billion (approximately Rs 977.62 crore). The deal will let Nepal use the money for the repair and improvement of highways, hospitals and upgrade other infrastructure damaged by a devastating earthquake in April 2015.
Relations between India and Nepal have cooled in recent months. In May, Nepal dismissed its ambassador to India following allegations that he was colluding with the Indian government to overturn the KP Oli-led administration in Kathmandu. However, he was reappointed to his post in October. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi has also expressed concern over the growing anti-India rhetoric in the Himalayan nation.