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General Rawat cautions Nepal about China, says Indian goodwill comes without strings attached

Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat said on Thursday that India's goodwill comes without strings attached and cautioned Nepal to be careful of China.

Rawat who was speaking at the annual dialogue between the Centre for Land Warfare Studies and Nepal-based think tank Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement (NIICE), however, did not mention China by name.

Specifically mentioning Sri Lanka, the Indian defence forces chief said: "Nepal is free to act independently in international affairs but must be vigilant and learn from Sri Lanka and other nations which have also signed agreements with other countries in the region."

He highlighted the historical ties and people-to-people relations between India and Nepal saying that the two countries have to further strengthen their relations for the "peace and prosperity of the people of both the countries, who are already inseparable.”

China has been expanding its influence in the Himalayan nation with several infrastructure projects under its globally ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in a bit to cast out India from the landlocked country. The results of the BRI are increasingly coming to the fore as many nations have become debt trapped due to China's expensive infrastructure projects.

Now India too is wooing Nepal with faster execution of its development projects, opening up more trade and transit routes as well as joining Nepalese capital Kathmandu with a railway line to India.

India and Nepal relations had come under a cloud this year after Nepal said that certain border areas had been usurped by India. India, in a bid to stem the worsening relations, sent Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel, Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla to Kathmandu.

The Indian visits to Nepal helped thaw the frozen relations and eliminated the distrust that had crept between the two nations. Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali is expected to visit India this month and meet up with senior officials including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar..