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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2583

Outcome Of Modi Visit To Nepal

By Rattan Saldi - Syndicate Features

K P Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal told his country’s Parliament that his Indian counterpart’s third visit to the Himalayan nation has taken bilateral relations to ‘new heights’.

“There is no longer any need for ties with India to be affected by events of the past,” said Oli, who has just been crowned as the co-chair of the newly formed Communist Party of Nepal (CPN). Henceforth “the focus should be on deepening relations and development cooperation”, he remarked.

How much satisfied India was from the outcome reflected in the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Modi at the time of his departure from Kathmandu when he said he had “a great opportunity” to connect with “the wonderful people of Nepal. He described his talks with his host as “productive,” and went on to declare that “a new vigour has been added to India-Nepal relations through this visit.”

Leaders of the entire political spectrum have also described Modi’s visit as fruitful and positive for both countries. Not that there were no dissenting voices but these were very few.

Prime Minister Modi’s two-day visit was the culmination of various efforts to melt the frost in bilateral relations that was caused in the wake of blockade of the border in 2015-16 at the time of implementation of the new Nepal Constitution. Even now, some sections, a miniscule though, nurse a grudge against India on account of the blockade. This became apparent when the social media in Nepal was flooded with “offensive” messages and tweets on the eve of Modi’s visit saying “Indian Premier is unwelcome guest.” Anti-India banners and posters appeared in Kathmandu; Police made some “preventive” arrests too.

The scene moderated by the time Indian Prime Minister completed his engagements in Nepal. In fact, Oli defanged these sections when he took the floor in Parliament and presented a detailed account of what had transpired in his talks with Modi. He said the past strains are healing up. And asked “why must we always live in the past and not move forward?” He answered the question himself. “It is crucial to move forward by resolving issues that mislead or affect relations.” A clear indication that the attitude of Nepalese Communist leaders towards India has softened.

Prime Minister Modi visited the three most revered religious places in the three different topographical regions of Nepal. It signalled that India is not Madhesh centric but gives equal importance to the Terai as well as the hills people. And needless to say, the gesture made an impact and brought into prime focus the centuries old socio economic, cultural and religious ties between the two countries.

Modi visited Janakpur Dham, situated in the plains of Terai region, the mythological birthplace of Goddess Sita, and Muktinath temple, situated at an altitude of 3,710 metres at the foot of Thorong La pass in Mustang district that straddles the Himalayas and extends northward onto the Tibetan plateau. He offered prayers at the historic Pashupati Nath temple in Kathmandu in the central region.

This was for the first time an Indian Prime Minister visited Janakpur and Muktinath. Modi started his latest Nepal odyssey from Janakpur. The symbolism was quickly noticed and connected the present with the Ramayana past that dates back to Treta Yug.

Modi offered special prayers at the Janaki temple. And the same afternoon on 11th May 2018 flew into Kathmandu for his political engagements with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and other leaders. It was his third visit in less than four years, which clearly acknowledged the high priority India attaches to Nepal in its “Neighbourhood First Policy”. Prime Minister Oli visited New Delhi in April on his first foreign visit after taking over the reins of the country.

The joint statement issued at the end of the visit reiterated the resolve of the two Prime Ministers to work together to take bilateral relations to new heights by strengthening ongoing cooperation and expanding partnership for socio-economic development on the basis of principles of equality, mutual trust, respect and mutual benefit. Both leaders agreed to maintain the momentum at all levels. The Agriculture Ministers of the two countries will meet soon to discuss how India can help in promoting and modernising Nepal’s agriculture. The Nepal - India Joint Commission will give a push to bilateral ties at the Foreign Ministers’ level.

Nepal’s trade deficit with India is growing. It is a matter of concern to Prime Minister Oli. The concern was shared by Modi. The way out is more access to Indian markets, hike in overall bilateral trade and a helping hand in Nepal’s transit trade with other countries. Towards this end, both leaders agreed to consider amendments to the Treaty of Transit and related Agreements.

Better connectivity will surely stimulate economic cooperation. For this, Nepal and India agreed on Kathmandu-Raxaul railway line, inland waterways and partnership in farm management during Oli’s visit to New Delhi. Now from Kathmandu, Oli and Modi directed their officials to explore opening up of additional air routes. Modi assured that work on the water way would start without any delay. A team will come to survey the proposed rail connectivity. Both Prime Ministers fixed September 2018 as the deadline for their officials to address all outstanding matters.

Modi and Oli jointly inaugurated, through remote control, of course, the work on the 900 MW Arun III Hydel Power Project in Sankhuwasabha district in Eastern Nepal. It is a $ 1.2 billion project. Indian Company, Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited, is building the venture. New Delhi has already sanctioned an investment of $ 854 million.

The two Prime Ministers have launched Nepal-India Ramayana Circuit connecting Janakpur with Ayodhya and other sites like Rameswaram associated with the Ramayana. They also flagged off a direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya which are separated by a distance of about 500 kilometres. Buddhist and Jain circuits will be promoted on the lines of Ramayana circuit, Modi said, and announced a one-billion-rupee aid for the development of Janakpur.

The open border between India and Nepal has contributed to strong bilateral ties at the people-to-people level encompassing social, cultural, religious and spiritual interests. A large number of cross border marriages take place every year binding nationals of the two countries.

Taking advantage of anti-India sentiment in Nepal, particularly during and after the blockade saga, China tried to spread its footprint into the Himalayan nation. Lately it is seeking to make a mark on the socio- cultural fabric of the country. A Chinese delegation has just visited Nepal to consider extending the Qinghai-Keyirong railway project from Tibet to Kathmandu.

Already, the Chinese have prepared a feasibility report on Kathmandu-Pokhara rail line, which is expected to be extended upto Lumbini for the benefit of Buddhist pilgrims.

Pokhara on Phewa Lake in central Nepal is a gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, a popular trail in the Himalayas. The Chinese are building an airport there, and another at Lumbini. All this will lead to an influx of Chinese tourists, whose arrivals have already increased by 20 to 30 percent a year. “But the real game changer will be the extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway to Nepal,” says Deepak Raj Joshi, chief executive of Nepal Tourism Board.

China is encouraging Nepalese to study in its universities. The Chinese embassy held an Education Fair in Kathmandu last December. And Ambassador Yu Hong announced increase in the number of scholarships for study at Chinese Universities. Pakistan Prime Minister Abbasi also offered more scholarships for Nepali students for higher studies in his country when he visited Kathmandu in March. He announced exploring easing of trade with Nepal to reduce it’s over dependence on India.

Viewed against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal is very significant; it helped to consolidate the cultural and spiritual ties apart from removing the mist in the political and diplomatic relations.

- Asian Tribune –

At Janaki Temple
Prime Minister Modi and Oli jointly laid the foundation stone for the 900 MW Arun III Hydropower Project
Modi at Muktinath
diconary view
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