A few days before China hosted its biggest diplomatic show in support of the Belt and Road Initiative on May 14 to 15, Beijing was able to bring Nepal on board as a member of its Silk Road plan. While there have been questions about Kathmandu’s decision to join the project, it should not come as a surprise. Nepal’s decision highlights the ongoing Sino-Indian competition for strategic space in South Asia, veiled under the guise of connectivity routes and infrastructure development.

India’s strongest opposition to the project has come in the form of its official absence from the Belt and Road forum. New Delhi also urged all scholars to get prior permission before attending the forum. While India has opposed the forum on grounds of sovereignty, its reasons involve genuine strategic concerns regarding the entire project. New Delhi has time and again referred to India’s commitment to transparency, rule of law, and openness on connectivity projects as an answer to joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), suggesting Beijing does not follow these principles. China in turn has put significant diplomatic muscle into gathering top-level participation from across the globe in support of its ambitious projects and negating any negative perspectives.

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This article was originally published in the Diplomat.