The real foundation of Indo-Nepal relations was laid with signing of friendship treaty in 1950 which witnessed upward trend; but 2015 took the ties to the lowest ebb following the blockade by India to create pressure on Nepal to protect rights of Terai people in the new constitution.
The different regimes in Himalayan Kingdom did keep relationship warm but deteriorating relations with China were further spoiled when communists government headed by K.P.S Oli adopted a new map thereby showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as Nepal’s territories.
India reacted sharply to the move and described it as “unilateral act” besides cautioning about such “artificial enlargement”. Communists gave fillip to ‘Anti India’ sentiments which damaged the ties between two nations to the hilt.
The inauguration of a road by defense minister Rajnath Singh linking Kailash Mansarovar via Lipulekh on May 8, 2020 was also strongly objected by the Oli regime in Kathmandu which had upset India.
Heritage oriented diplomacy
In this backdrop, Indian Prime Minister, Narender Modi did make efforts and recently undertook his fifth visit to Lumbini which preceded his trip to Janakpuriki in 2018 hence there is upward trend in the improvement of the relations between two neighbours.
The signing of six agreements between two nations including development of Arin-1V hydro electric project worth Rs 79.12 billion will a long way to improve the ties in future.
China factor has been responsible for drifting of neighbours like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan etc., hence India must opt for shrewd diplomacy to checkmate Dragon which has got its ambition to become Super Power to replace United States.
Cooperation in energy sector
Laying the foundation for future joint cooperation in the energy sector, the signing of six agreements between two sides after the bilateral talks between Deuba and Modi will go a long way in fulfilling the demand for power in two countries.
Deuba has also invited interested companies from India such as the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation of India for the development of the West Seti Hydroelectric Project.
The two prime ministers have agreed to take up the Pancheshwar Multi-purpose Project with priority which may help in the progress of local people by providing jobs on a large scale.
Another initiative will pay rich dividends in future as both sides have agreed in principle to establish the sister city relations between Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, and Kushinagar, where Buddha passed away.
Deuba is good for India
The political upheaval in Nepal witnessed the ouster of Communists from power which gave an opportunity to Nepali Congress leader, Sher Bahadur Deuba to head coalition government comprising of of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and one faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party headed by Upendra Yadav.
It was new Nepal prime minister, Sher Bahadur Beuba’s visit to Delhi on April 3,2022 which helped in ironing out the differences with India vis- a -vis territorial controversy and subsequently an invitation extended by him to Modi to visit to Lumbini on the occasion of ‘Budh Purnima’.
Ex Nepalese diplomats in Kathmandu feel that the Nepali National Congress was founded by Matrika Prasad Koirala in Calcutta, India on 25 January 1946 which makes the present Deuba dispensation as a natural friend to deal with Anti India sentiments.
Deuba’s efforts are dictated by sovereignty and obligation of ensuring development through exploitation of hydel projects with the financial and technical assistance of India having an equal partnership.
China game plan
Analysts believe that relations between two countries were drifting towards the point of no return especially after the announcement of a huge financial package of Nepalese ` 56 billion or $492 million assistance to Kathmandu over the next two years to help Nepal’s development programmes as the two countries inked 20 agreements to bolster their bilateral ties during Chinese President ,Xi Jinping OCT 13,2019.2ndly,blockade imposed by Modi government in 2015 had turned Nepalis against New Delhi which was intended to create a pressure on Nepal government to help Terai areas citizens (adjacent to Bihar )who wanted more share in the new constitution which was being framed at that time by the experts.
To counter the China’s game plan to alienate Nepal from India, Modi preferred to push his religious diplomacy which was initiated by him during visit 2018 to Janakpuri, the birthplace of Sita, to give an momentum to Nepal-India bilateral ties focusing on development of energy sector which has now culminated in signing of memorandum of understanding to develop Arun-IV hydropower project in Sankhuwasabha.
Janakpruriji links with two nations
Recalling his earlier visit to Jankapuri, Modi had said “without Nepal, our Ram is incomplete but I know that today when a huge temple is being built in India, people of Nepal are equally happy.”
Interestingly, the Indian prime minister’s reference to the temple in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh comes at a time when a Ram temple is also being built in Ayodhyapuri of Chitwan after former Prime Minister, Oli’s claim about birth of Lord Ram in Nepal and not in Ayodhya.
“India and Nepal’s ever-strengthening friendship and our closeness will benefit the entire humanity in the kind of global conditions that are emerging,” Modi said in his 20-minute address on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.
Reciprocating the gesture, Nepal PM Deuba described India as a “close neighbour and a trusted friend.” Deuba observed that he had a “fruitful discussion” with Prime Minister Modi and he was looking forward for developing the Buddha Circuit involving Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar in India.
Experts opine that it was common apparition of Sher Bahadur and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi who had agreed in April this year to have a ‘Joint Vision Statement’ on Power Sector Cooperation which dwells upon the expanding cooperation in the power sector to include their partner countries like Bangladesh Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) under this framework which will be subject to mutually agreed terms and conditions amongst these nations.
As per the vision statement, two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation on the exploitation and development of power generation projects in Nepal which further cement ties between two neighbors.
Big challenge for foreign policy
Diplomats in Delhi and Kathmandu opine that India needs to ‘Re Look’ at its decades old faulty approach of successive dispensations in Delhi which had been responsible for creating ‘Anti India’ sentiments in Himalayan Kingdom as it did not focus on geo political and economic aspects.
They are unanimous in their opinion that genesis of Anti India sentiments amongst the majority of politicians and common people dates back to Rana regime besides ‘Big Brother ‘attitude of Indians, politicians and bureaucrats dealing with foreign policy of our country which must be rectified.
K.S.TOMAR is a national columnist and political analyst who covered Nepal for six years for premier English national newspaper of India
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.