KATHMANDU, NEPAL — Nepal will vote Thursday in a landmark election that will be closely watched by neighboring India and China, each hoping for a win for their domestic allies in the small Himalayan nation.
The national election comes as China is expanding its influence across Asia, including by ramping up investments in Nepal — a development that analysts say has rattled India, long the dominant Asian power in the country.
“Nepal has been liberated from dependency on only one neighbor,” Left Alliance leader Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said to a cheering crowd at a recent campaign rally in the city of Pokhara.
The Left Alliance has campaigned on a call to counter India’s dominance in Nepal with Chinese power. On the other side, incumbent Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is widely thought to be pro-India, has called for balancing Indian and Chinese power.[Why Sherpas from a remote village walked for hours to vote in Nepal’s elections]
India’s influence in Nepal was unrivaled for decades. The countries share an open border, thriving trade links and common religions and customs. But in the past several years, China has redoubled investments in Nepal, building up infrastructure that could increase trade between the two countries, and making plans to expand Nepal’s vast untapped hydropower infrastructure, which could yield large returns — and displace India’s dominance here. Chinese investors have built roads, hospitals, colleges and malls and are drawing up plans to set up rail links and power Chinese investors have built roads, hospitals, colleges and malls and are drawing up plans to set up rail links and power
transmission lines. At Kathmandu’s international airport, incoming travelers are greeted by a large advertisement of a “Made in China” mall that sells everything from rice cookers to doormats.