Despite having close relations dating back to ancient times, it was the Indo-Nepal treaty of peace and friendship signed between two countries in 1950 which had laid the foundation of closer ties. Rana rulers of Nepal had welcomed close relations with the newly independent India, fearing a danger of ouster of their autocratic rule by China-backed communists.
But Pro China tilt of communists government led by former prime minister, K.P.S.Oli brought the relations between two nations to the lowest ebb which witnessed a positive trend of ascendency after coalition government comprising of present PM, Kamal Dahal, Prachanda’s communist Party of Nepal -Maoists Center(CPN-MC) and Nepali Congress, as dominant partner which is known for its close proximity to India since decades. Modi recalled his visit to Himalayan Kingdom in 2014 when he gave a new formula ‘HIT ’(Highways, I-ways, and Trans-ways) for strengthening of Nepal and India relations which was aimed at eliminating the existing barriers but now he is optimist and confident to take it to a new height and make it as ‘Super Hit’ in times to come. Nepal PM Prachanda also reciprocated the gesture and appreciated Modi’s Neighborhood Policy.
Economic ties will be strengthened after the successful visit of Nepal PM Prachanda
Indian prime minister, Narender Modi made significant and meaningful observations about the impact of signing of seven agreements with his counterpart Prachanda which will have special bearing in shaping future economic ties which will be of mutual benefits and relevance. The well calibrated agreements having a goal of farsightedness covered various fields including cross - border petroleum pipeline trade and commerce, development of Integrated Check Posts and hydroelectric projects. Modi observed “myself and Prachanda took many important decisions to make partnership between the two countries as ‘Super Hit’ in future.” Prachanda was firm in his perception when he said “the age-old ties between two nations are of special significance and multi-faceted. The relationships stand on the solid foundation which are built on one hand by the rich tradition of cultural, socio-economic, civilizational, linkage and on the other by the firm commitment of the two countries to the time-tested principle of sovereign equality, mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.”
Power agreements will break 25 years deadlock
Nepal has got every reason to smile as trilateral power agreement became reality after several years of stalemate which will ensure import of 10,000 MW of power from Nepal to Nepal for 10 years which will be earning thousands of crores of revenue and subsequently providing an advantage of additional availability of electricity for consumers in our country. It will enable Nepal to start the import of power up to 60 MW to Bangladesh through India though the final details will be worked out by the officials of three nations soon. As per Kulman Ghising, managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority, under the umbrella project, power companies of Nepal and India can sign medium- or long-term electricity trade agreements which will end the existing cumbersome procedure of renewing of export agreement by Nepal every year. It will prove a path breaking event as buyers and sellers can sign power agreements for 25 years and Nepal can visualize its prosperity through energy export to India or other countries. Experts say that a key element of the bilateral partnership pertains to one of the important agreements signed between India and Nepal to develop the 669 MW Lower Arun Hydro Project which got approval from Nepal’s Investment Board prior to commencement of Prachanda’s visit to New Delhi. India is also developing a mega 900 MW Arun-III hydroelectric project in Nepal besides having a 490 MW Arun-4 hydroelectric project in the pipeline which will be taken to logical end in near future. India has also built several hydroelectric projects in Nepal which include Devighat (14.1 MW), Western Gandak (15 MW),,Pokhara (1 MW), Trisuli (21 MW), and etc. which reflect old and close cooperation between two nations in the energy sector. Foreign Secretary, Vinay Mohan Kwatra observed that two PMs had agreed to achieve tangible and time-bound progress on the Pancheshwar multipurpose project and India will cooperate with Kathmandu to set up a fertilizer plant in Nepal.
Approval of citizenship bill aims at an outreach to India and United States
Observers feel that the approval of citizenship bill is being seen as an attempt by Prachanda to exhibit his closeness to India and United states though it may irritate Dragon .Second, Prachanda chose India over China for his maiden visit which has sent good signal as it has proved fruitful which is evident from the signing of seven agreements thereby benefiting people of both countries.
India and Nepal PMs avoid ticklish issues
Former Nepali diplomats in Kathmandu felt that Modi and Prachanda refrained from touching the irritants which could have spoiled the outcome of the latter’s visit. Prachanda tactfully touched the boundary issue and suggested resolving it through diplomatic channels. Communists led government of Oli had brought Nepal-India ties to lowest ebb when a map was redrawn showing Indian territories like Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories which had infuriated India and it had outrightly rejected this mischievous move. The then PM, Oli had also objected opening of 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand by defense minister, Rajnath Singh on May 8, 2020.It connects the Lipulekh pass having a height of 17,000 feet along the border with Tibet in Uttarakhand with Dharchula in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district. Experts had attributed Oli’s actions to Chinese strategy to unsettle age-old ties between India and Nepal. Nepal had also opposed India’s action to bring out a revised political map showing the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladhakh which had created bitterness.
As per clear determination and commitment to ensure success of his visit, Nepal PM did not fall prey to the suggestion made by two former PMs of Nepal Viz. Baburam Bhatrai and K.P.S.Oli who wanted him to raise an issue of the Akhand Bharat mural in the newly inaugurated parliament building which presents Kapilvasti,Biratnagar and Lumbini as parts of the Indian map.
The ‘Ramayana Circuit’ to be expedited
Both sides have agreed to speed up complition of projects related to Ramyanya circuit which comprises 15 tourism circuits thereby strengthening religious and cultural ties in future. Modi and Prachanda recognized the centuries old ‘Roti-Beti’ bonds which refer to cross border marriages between people of two nations and resolved to preserve the same at all costs. Nepal has got a lot of strategic importance for India as it shares a border of over 1,850 km with five Indian states - Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. A land locked Nepal heavily depends upon India for transportation of goods and services besides sea route. Nepal favored an air route through Mahendergarh but a mid-path was preferred hence India has agreed to allow inbound flights to use the L626 route which enters Himalayan Kingdom from the west. India may agree only for aircraft flying at an altitude of 15,000 to 24,000 ft but experts say that it could be too low and uneconomical for the operation of the jets.
Analysts opine that outcome of four-day visit of Prachanda may not be in consonance with the policy of China to wean away Nepal from India because signing of seven agreements may change the dynamics of ties between two nations which may new height in future. It is a hard fact that new economic cooperation especially in hydel sector has got tremendous potential to bring prosperity in Himalayan Kingdom.
(Writer is political analyst and having six-year experience of covering Nepal for a premier English daily of India)