China–Nepal relations

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Sino-Nepalese relations
Map indicating locations of China and Nepal



The bilateral relation between Nepal and China has been friendly and is defined by the Sino-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed on April 28, 1960 by the two countries. Though initially unenthusiastic, Nepal has been of late making efforts to increase trade and connectivity with China. Relations between Nepal and China got a boost when both countries solved all border disputes along the China–Nepal border by signing the Sino-Nepal boundary agreement on March 21, 1960. The government of both Nepal and China ratified the border agreement treaty on October 5, 1961. From 1975 onward, Nepal has maintained a policy of balancing the competing influence of China and Nepal's southern neighbor India, the only two neighbors of the Himalayan country after the annexation of the Kingdom of Sikkim by India in 1975.[1][2] In recent years, China has been making an effort to gain entry into SAARC, and, Nepal has continuously backed and supported the proposal to include China as a member in the regional grouping. Since 1975, Sino-Nepalese relations have been close and grown significantly, with China being the largest source of FDI,[3] while India still remains one of the major source of remittance to Nepal.[4][5] As per the estimate of Nepalese government, there are around 1 million Nepalese migrant workers in India while the number of Nepalis in China is minuscule (3,500 in Mainland and 15,950 in Hong Kong)[6] as of 2017.

Nepal, Tibet and China[edit]

Statue of Araniko at the Miaoying Temple, Beijing

The relationship between Nepal and Tibet are centuries old, with the Sherpa people, the Gurung people and the Thakali people of Nepal sharing close linguistic, cultural, marital, and, ethnic ties with the Tibetan people of Tibet. However, the people to people ties between these groups has been affected since 1950 onwards, after the absorption of Tibet into China resulting in the regulated border between Nepal and Tibet (as a part of China). Despite the fluctuating political scenarios in Nepal's neighborhood and within Nepal itself, the influence of Buddhism still remains strong in the day-to-day life of Nepalese people living in the Himalayan Region. The Buddhist monarchy in The Kingdom of Lo (Upper Mustang), previously a part of the Tibetan Empire but now in Nepal, was terminated only in 2008.[7] The area of Lo Manthang, however, still remains quasi-restricted to foreigners.

Around 600-650 CE, Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti (Bal-mo-bza' Khri-btsun in Tibetan) married Songtsän Gampo, the earliest known Emperor of Tibet.[8][9] Princess Bhrikuti, as a part of her dowry, is widely believed to have brought Buddhists relics and Thangkas to Tibet, and therefore, is attributed for establishing Buddhism as the Royal religion in Tibet. Bhrikuti is usually represented as Green Tara in Tibetan iconography. The Red Palace (Mar-po-ri Pho-drang) on Marpo Ri (Red Mountain) in Lhasa, which was later rebuilt into the thirteen storey Potala Palace by the Fifth Dalai Lama, was constructed by Newari craftsmen according to her wishes, who came to Tibet from Kathmandu with her, as a part of her dowry. She also instructed her craftsmen to construct the Tub-wang and other statues in Samye, the first Buddhist gompa in Tibet.[10] One of her craftsmen, Thro-wo, also carved the revered statue of Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara), Thungji Chen-po rang-jung nga-ldan.

During the Tang dynasty, the Chinese envoy Wang Xuance led an army of Nepalese and Tibetans to defeat an usurper in the Indian Kingdom of Magadha. In 1260 CE during the Yuan dynasty, Nepali craftsmen Araniko, on the decree of Chinese/Mongolian Emperor Kublai Khan, traveled to Shangdu and built the White Stupa of Miaoying Temple in Beijing, which was the largest structure in Beijing at that time.[11] Taking almost ten years (1279-1288 CE) to complete, the Stupa better known as White Dagoba, is still standing today and is considered to be one of the oldest Buddhist Stupa in China.

Mohar of king Prithvi Narayan Shah dated Saka Era 1685 (AD 1763)
kong par tangka dated 13-45 (= AD 1791),obverse
Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi meeting with King Mahendra in 1965.

In 1789, the Tibetan government stopped the usage of Nepalese coins for trade in Tibet, citing purity concerns over the copper and the silver coins minted by the Nepalese government,[12] which led to the first Nepal-Tibet war.[13] A resounding victory of Gorkha forces over Tibetans in the first Nepal-Tibet war left the Lhasa Durbar with no choice but to ask for assistance from the Qing Emperor in Peking. In the immediate aftermath of the Sino-Nepalese War (1789-1792), Nepal was forced to sign the 'Treaty of Betrawati'[14] which stipulated that the Government of Nepal was required to make payment of tribute to Qing court in Peking once every five years, after the defeat of Gurkha forces by the Qing army in Tibet.[14]

Nepalese-Tibetan War
Battle of Guntagadhi.jpg
Battle of Guntagadhi where Nepali forces (in black) defeated Tibetan forces
DateApril 1855 – March 1856



Qing dynasty Qing Dynasty

Kingdom of Nepal Kingdom of Nepal
Commanders and leaders
Sethya Kaji Jang Bahadur Rana
Bam Bahadur Kunwar
Dhir Shumsher Kunwar
Krishna Dhoj Kunwar
Prithvi Dhoj Kunwar
98,000 34,906
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The 'Treaty of Betrawati' signed by Nepal and Tibet on October 2, 1792 stipulated that both Nepal and Tibet recognize the suzerainty of the Qing Emperor Jiaqing, and further, stated that the Qing court would be obliged to help Nepal defend against any external aggression.[15] However, during the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), the Qing Emperor refused the Nepalese government's request to provide support to Nepalese forces, and, the latter's defeat led to the establishment of the British Empire in India.[1] Then after, Nepal initiated a policy of balancing the influence of Imperial China and British India.[1] Through the tenth quinquennial mission to China (1837), under the leadership of Chautariya Pushkar Shah, the Nepalese government again requested the Daoguang Emperor court to either send troops or a subsidy of Twenty million rupees to oppose the British. However, the Nepalese delegation was said to have been met with a stern refusal of its petition for monetary support, and opposition to the furtherance of hostility by Nepal against the British.[16] Soon after Nepal's defeat in the Anglo-Nepalese war, from 1840 onward, Tibetan government again stopped the use Nepalese coins for trade.[12][circular reference] In an attempt to preserve the lucrative coin export business and trade advantages, the Nepalese Kingdom, under the leadership of Jung Bahadur Rana again invaded Tibet in 1855 during the second Nepalese-Tibetan War, and raided the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, home to the Panchen Lama at that time. The invading Nepalese army was ordered to vacate the occupied Tibetan territories by the Qing Court, which was rapidly losing its hold over frontier territories due to turmoil inside China proper. Nepal's refusal to hand back the control of Tashilhunpo Monastery led to the second Sino-Nepalese War which resulted in a stalemate; a major setback for Tibetans, ultimately culminating into the Treaty of Thapathali in March 24, 1856.[17] Through the Treaty of Thapathali, Nepal expressed commitment to help Tibet in the event of foreign aggression while authorities in Tibet were obliged to pay the Nepalese government a sum of Nepalese Rupees 10,000 every year.[1] Further, Nepalese government stopped paying tribute to the rulers in Beijing after signing the Treaty of Thapathali. The withdrawal of Nepalese forces from Tibetan areas adjacent to Tibet-Nepal border in 1856 provided the Qing court with the opportunity to firmly tighten its grip in and around Lhasa and throughout Tibet. Soon after the Treaty of Thapathali, the Qing court also issued an edict which among other dispositions stipulated the introduction of a new silver coinage in Tibet, struck in the name of the Qianlong Emperor, the then ruler of China,[18] while at the same time, Nepalese coins were completely forbidden in Tibet from then onward.[19]

During the late 19th century, after the rise of the British Raj as the unchallenged and the dominant power in the sub-continent, Nepal aligned itself with the British Raj in India and supported its invasion of Tibet in 1908.[1] When China sought to claim Tibet in 1910, Nepal sided with Tibet and Britain and broke relations with China after Tibet drove Chinese forces out in 1911.[1]

Diplomatic relations and Nepalese neutrality[edit]

The 1950 military occupation of Tibet by the People's Liberation Army raised significant concerns of security and territorial integrity in Nepal, drawing Nepal into a close relationship with extensive economic and military ties with Republic of India.[20][21][22] China ordered restrictions on the entry of Nepalese pilgrims and contacts with Tibet. The 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship that had established a close Indo-Nepalese relationship on commerce, and foreign relations, was increasingly resented in Nepal, which began seeing it as an encroachment of its sovereignty and an unwelcome extension of Indian influence; the deployment of an Indian military mission in Nepal in the 1950s and unabated migration of millions of bihari Indians into Nepal's Terai region increased these concerns.[21]

In 1955, Nepal restored diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and exchanged resident ambassadors by 1960. In 1956, both nations signed a new treaty terminating the Treaty of Thapathali of 1856 and Nepal recognized Tibet as a part of China.[1] In 1960, Nepal and China signed a boundary settlement agreement and a separate 'Sino-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship'.[23] Nepal also began supporting the change of China's seat in the United Nations.[1] In 1961, Nepal and China agreed to build an all-weather road connecting the Nepalese capital Kathmandu with Tibet. During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, Nepal maintained neutrality.[1]

Economic and strategic relations[edit]

In the late 1970s after the annexation of Kingdom of Sikkim by India, King Birendra of Nepal proposed Nepal as a "zone of peace" between India and China and in the 1980s, Nepal began importing Chinese weaponry.[1][2][20] When the United States, United Kingdom and India refused to supply arms to the regime of King Gyanendra of Nepal, who had assumed direct rule to suppress the Maoist insurgency during the Nepalese civil war (1996–2006), China responded by dispatching arms to Nepal, in spite of the ideological affinity of the Maoists with China.[24][25] After the peace process and national elections in Nepal in 2008, the new Maoist-led government announced its intentions to scrap Nepal's 1950 treaty with India, indicating a stronger move towards closer ties with China.[24][26][27]


Nepal and China have signed a transit trade treaty and nine other pacts as of 22 of March 2016.

Points in Nepal-China Treaty 2016:

  1. Nepal to use China’s sea port facility
  2. Transit transport agreement to be reviewed every 10 years
  3. China to build a regional international airport in Pokhara.
  4. China, Nepal exploring the possibilities of signing a bilateral free trade agreement
  5. China to explore the possibility of finding oil and gas reserves in Nepal
  6. China to provide economic and technical support to Nepal to implement the project on Pokhara airport
  7. China to distribute solar panels in Nepal’s rural areas by tapping its Climate Fund
  8. China to build, manage and maintain Xiarwa Boundary River Bridge at Hilsa, Humla
  9. Nepal, China to strengthen intellectual property system in both the countries
  10. Nepal, China to extend cooperation and exchange information on banking regulations


In 2007-08, China began construction of a 770-kilometre railway connecting the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with the Nepalese border town of Khasa, connecting Nepal to China's wider national railway network.[28] In a meeting between Chinese and Nepalese officials on 25 April 2008, the Chinese delegation announced the intention to extend the Qingzang railway to Zhangmu (Nepali: Khasa) on the Nepalese border. Nepal had requested that the railway be extended to enable trade and tourism between the two nations. On the occasion of the Nepali premier's visit to China it was reported that construction will be completed by 2020.[18] The section Lhasa-Shigatse opened in August 2014.

In June 2018, China and Nepal announced an agreement to connect Xigazê, Tibet Autonomous Region with Kathmandu, via a new railroad.[29]

In September 2018, Nepalese commerce ministry official Rabi Shankar Sainju announced that China had granted Nepal access to the ports of Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang, and Zhanjiang, as well as land ports at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse.[30] Access to Chinese ports reduces Nepal's dependence on India for commerce, a dependence that was highlighted by the 2015 Nepal blockade.[30][31]


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  2. ^ a b "Nepal's China-Card - Scoop News". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
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  7. ^ Raffaele, Paul (April 1998). "Into the Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang". Reader's Digest. 421. 71.
  8. ^ Tenzin, Ahcarya Kirti Tulku Lobsang. "Early Relations between Tibbet and Nepal (7th to 8th Centuries)." Translated by K. Dhondup. The Tibet Journal, Vol. VII, Nos. 1 &2. Spring/Summer 1982, p. 84.
  9. ^ Josayma, C.B. Gsaya Belsa: An Introduction, The Tibet Journal, Vol. XVIII, No. 1. Spring 1993, p. 27.
  10. ^ Yeshe Tsogyal (2004). The Lotus-born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava. Rangjung Yeshe Publications. p. 290. ISBN 978-962-7341-55-0.
  11. ^ Kesar Lall. A Nepalese Miscellany, p.32
  12. ^ a b Historical money of Tibet[circular reference]
  13. ^ Marshall, Julie G.; Lamb, Alastair (2005). Britain and Tibet 1765-1947: A Select Annotated Bibliography of British Relations with Tibet and the Himalayan States Including Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. ISBN 9780415336475.
  14. ^ a b Upadhya, Sanjay (2012-02-27). Nepal and the Geo-Strategic Rivalry between China and India. ISBN 9781136335495.
  15. ^ Sino-Nepalese War[circular reference]
  16. ^ Hodgson to Gov of India, 26 May 1838, Foreign Dept Sec, 13 June 1838, No 10, NAI
  17. ^ Treaty of Thapathali[circular reference]
  18. ^ Rhodes, Nicholas G. (Winter 1990) The first Coins struck in Tibet, Tibet Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, Dharamsala, pp. 115–134.
  19. ^ Bertsch, Wolfgang (Spring 2008) The Kong-par Tangka of Tibet, Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, No. 195, Croydon & Ringwood, pp. 35–46.
  20. ^ a b "India - Nepal". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  21. ^ a b "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Editorial". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  22. ^ Dick Hodder, Sarah J. Lloyd, Keith Stanley McLachlan. Land-locked States of Africa and Asia. page 177. Routledge, 1998. ISBN 0-7146-4829-9
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-11-23. Retrieved 2017-07-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ a b Tharoor, Ishaan (15 April 2008). "When the Maoists Take Over Nepal". Retrieved 17 April 2017 – via
  25. ^ "BBC NEWS - South Asia - Chinese 'deliver arms to Nepal'". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  26. ^ "India willing to review 1950 treaty". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  27. ^ "Maoists to scrap 1950 Indo-Nepal treaty". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  28. ^ Online, Asia Time. "Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  29. ^ Press Trust of India (June 22, 2018). "China, Nepal to build Tibet-Kathmandu railway link". Zee Media Corporation Limited. The new railway line will connect the Gyirong trading port in the city of Xigaze in Tibet with the Nepali capital Kathmandu, Vice-Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou was quoted as saying by the China Daily, after the two meetings.
  30. ^ a b Reuters (September 7, 2018). "Nepal says China to allow access to ports, ending Indian monopoly on transit". FMT Media Sdn Bhd.
  31. ^ Gill, Peter (October 12, 2019). "High Expectations as China's Xi Lands in Nepal". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on October 22, 2019. The last blockade, which followed the launch of BRI and Xi’s projection of greater Chinese power abroad, resulted in Nepal seeking to bolster connectivity with China

Further reading[edit]