|Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Discuss various issues and recent deterioration in India-Nepal ties. Mention areas of Cooperation that need to be strengthened further.
Conclusion. Way forward.
Nepal is an important neighbour of India and occupies special significance in its foreign policy because of the geographic, historical, cultural and economic linkages/ties that span centuries.The two countries shared a very strong relation for a long time which has been impacted by some recent events and issues.
Issues and recent deterioration of India-Nepal ties:
- Border issues: Nepal and India have some contentious issues relating to the border, including the two major areas of dispute at Susta and Kalapani (India-China-Nepal tri-junction).Countries agreed to start talks at the foreign secretary-level in order to resolve the problem however, only a single talk has taken place in 2015.
- Internal Security: Open border between India and Nepal leads to illegal migration and human trafficking threatening Indian security.Indo Nepal border is used as launch pad by maoist, terrorist and drug traffickers.
- Nepal’s new constitution and its aftermath: A new constitution was promulgated in Nepal in 2015.It gave extensive political privileges to the ruling hill tribes and discriminated against the people living in plains including Madhesis. It also made obtaining citizenship by Madhesis very difficult. This issue has emerged as a contentious issue between India and Nepal that was seen in form of economic blockade including blockade of gas supply, fuel etc. by India.
- Big Brotherattitude: There is a widespread perception in Nepal that India does not respect the country’s sovereignty and that it often intervenes in Nepal’s domestic affairs.India has been perceived to be playing a role of big brother in the region.
- Peace and friendship treaty: The India-Nepal treaty of 1950 has been criticised by the Nepali political elite as an unequal one.Treaty obliged Nepal to inform India and seek its consent for the purchases of military hardware from third countries. Nepal wants to change this provision.
- Nepal’s growing proximity to China: In recent times China’s presence has increased in Nepal that has heightened India’s security concerns.China plans to extend the Tibet railway to Kathmandu across the border in the next few years.Nepal signed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Framework agreement with China last year.China is trying to contest Indian interests by cultivating local interest groups that could advance China’s interests in Nepal.
- Demonetisation:Demonetisation has badly affected Nepali nationals because those notes were legal tender in Nepal too.Nepal has time and again requested that the Indian government make arrangements for the exchange of those notes held by Nepali nationals and its central bank.
Areas of Cooperation that need to be strengthened further:
- Trade and Economic: India is Nepal’s largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments, besides providing transit for almost the entire trade which Nepal has with other countries. Trade must increase more to make relations better.
- Water Resources and energy cooperation: A three–tier mechanism established in 2008, to discuss all bilateral issues relating to cooperation in water resources and hydropower.Nepal has many fast flowing rivers and its terrain makes it ideal for hydroelectric power generation. A 900 megawatts hydropower project Arun III has been launched recently.
- Defence Cooperation: The Gorkha Regiments of the Indian Army are raised partly by recruitment from hill districts of Nepal.Since 1950, India and Nepal have been awarding Army Chiefs of each other with the honorary rank of General.India must work with Nepal for cooperation in defence area.
- Infrastructure and connectivity: India provides development assistance to Nepal, focusing on creation of infrastructure at the grass-root level.Recently a MoU was signed on Raxaul-Kathmandu railway line. Both the countries are also focused on inland waterways connectivity. India should continue such efforts.
- India should counter Chinese hard power by projecting soft power. In contrast to China’s efforts to muscle its way into Nepal, India should emphasise on its historically close cultural, religious, and people-to-people relations with Nepal.
- Both the countries are affected due to the misuse of open border by internal and external forces, the responsibility of border management and regulation depends on both.
- India should provide an alternative narrative for India-Nepal ties, one that takes into account longstanding people-to-people ties and cultural connect.
- India should focus on fructifying the potential of hydropower cooperation, which has remained untapped largely due to differing perceptions.
Thus, India should maintain the policy of keeping away from internal affairs of Nepal, meanwhile in the spirit of friendship India should guide the nation towards more inclusive rhetoric.With its immense strategic relevance in the Indian context as Indian security concern, stable and secure Nepal is one requisite which India can’t afford to overlook.