Recent development in India – Nepal relations – Explained, pointwise

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The recent visit of the Nepali Prime Minister to India has highlighted the ongoing developments in India-Nepal relations. The visit aimed to strengthen bilateral ties and address various issues of mutual concern. Both countries have shown a willingness to enhance cooperation in areas such as trade, infrastructure, and hydroelectric power. The visit signifies a positive step towards building a stronger and more prosperous relationship between India and Nepal. However, concerns and challenges persist in this relationship.  

What are the recent developments in India – Nepal relations?

Improvement in relations: After a period of strain during the tenure of the past Prime Minister, relations between India and Nepal have been improving. The change in leadership in Nepal has contributed to the positive trajectory.  

High-level visits: There have been several high-level visits between India and Nepal, indicating the efforts to strengthen bilateral ties. Nepalese Foreign Secretary visited New Delhi, and Indian Foreign Secretary visited Kathmandu, focusing on enhancing cooperation and resolving contentious issues.  

Energy cooperation: India and Nepal have signed agreements to boost cooperation in the energy sector. India is involved in the development of several hydropower projects in Nepal, including the Arun III, Arun-4, Upper Karnali, Seti River 6, and West Seti projects. Long-term power trade agreements have been signed, aiming to import 10,000 MW of electricity from Nepal to India over the next 10 years.  

Infrastructure projects: Both countries are working on infrastructure projects to improve connectivity. Recently, India Prime Minister and his Nepalese counterpart remotely unveiled the Kurtha-Bijalpura section of the railway line, virtually flagged off a cargo train from Bathnaha (India) to Nepal Customs Yard and inaugurated Integrated Checkposts (ICPs) at Nepalgunj in Nepal and Rupaidiha on the Indian side.  

Cultural and religious ties: Efforts have been made to strengthen cultural and religious ties between India and Nepal. The expedited development of projects related to the Ramayana circuit has been discussed, reflecting the shared cultural heritage between the two countries.  

Geopolitical dynamics: India is seeking to counter China’s influence in Nepal through economic diplomacy and by expanding cooperation in various sectors.  

Read more: India, Nepal sign pacts on energy, transport 

What are the areas of Cooperation between India – Nepal relations?

Read here: India-Nepal Relationship – Explained, pointwise 

What are the growth factors of India – Nepal relations?

Shared cultural and religious heritage: India and Nepal share a deep cultural and religious bond, which has been a significant growth factor in their relations. The cultural and religious ties between the two countries have played an important role in keeping the relations intact at the people’s level. For example, the transport of Shilas (stones) from the Kaligandaki River in Nepal to Ayodhya in India for the construction of the Ram Mandir symbolizes the religiosity and cultural oneness between the two nations.  

People-to-people connectivity: The open-border system and close people-to-people connection between India and Nepal have been vital in fostering vibrant and dynamic relations. The ease of movement and exchange of goods and services have created strong ties between the two countries.  

Economic cooperation: Economic cooperation has emerged as a significant growth factor in India-Nepal relations. India has been involved in various development projects in Nepal, particularly in the energy sector.  

Connectivity and infrastructure development: Both countries have focused on enhancing connectivity and infrastructure development, which has contributed to the growth of their relations.  

Geopolitical dynamics: India’s efforts to counter China’s influence and check its growing presence in Nepal have led to increased engagement and cooperation between India and Nepal. India’s economic diplomacy and focus on expanding economic cooperation with Nepal are aimed at maintaining its strategic interests in the region.  

What is the importance of India to Nepal and vice versa?

Recent development in India - Nepal relations
Source: Maps of India

India’s importance to Nepal:  

Economic dependence: Nepal relies on India for trade and transportation of goods, as well as access to sea routes.  

Cultural and religious Ties: India and Nepal share a deep cultural and religious heritage, which strengthens their social bonds.  

Assistance and support: During times of crisis, such as the 2015 earthquake and pandemic, India has provided significant aid and support to Nepal.  

Infrastructure development: India’s involvement in infrastructure projects, such as hydropower, contributes to Nepal’s economic growth and development.  

Security cooperation: India plays a crucial role in ensuring the security and stability of Nepal, supporting its defense and border management.  

Nepal’s importance to India:

Strategic location: Nepal shares a border of about 1850 km with five Indian States – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim, making it an important buffer state for India’s security interests.  

Connectivity: Nepal provides a crucial transit route for India to connect with other neighbouring countries and enhance regional connectivity.  

Cultural and religious tourism: Nepal attracts a significant number of Indian tourists, especially for pilgrimage and religious purposes.  

Energy cooperation: Nepal’s hydropower potential can contribute to India’s energy requirements, fostering cooperation in the energy sector.  

Regional stability: A stable and friendly Nepal is essential for India’s overall regional stability and influence.  

What are the potential benefits of India – Nepal relations?

Economic growth: Cooperation between India and Nepal promotes trade, investment, and economic development, leading to improved living standards and job opportunities.  

Infrastructure development: Joint initiatives contribute to the development of infrastructure projects like hydropower plants and transportation networks, boosting connectivity and trade facilitation.  

Energy security: Nepal’s hydropower potential can provide clean and renewable energy to India, enhancing energy security and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.  

Cultural exchange: Strong cultural ties foster people-to-people connections, tourism, and mutual understanding, enriching the cultural fabric of both nations.  

Security cooperation: Collaboration in security matters ensures border stability, counter-terrorism efforts, and intelligence sharing, promoting regional security.  

Humanitarian assistance: During times of crisis, such as natural disasters and pandemic , India’s support and aid to Nepal demonstrate solidarity and humanitarian cooperation.  

Countering China’s influence in the region: By maintaining a close relationship, India can help Nepal navigate its relations with China, ensuring that Nepal’s interests are protected and balanced between the two neighboring powers. This helps prevent any undue dominance or overreliance on China, promoting Nepal’s sovereignty and maintaining regional stability.  

Read more: China’s growing influence in Nepal means India’s diplomacy and project delivery will need to improve

What are the challenges faced in developing India – Nepal relations?

Geopolitical rivalry: The presence of geopolitical rivalries, particularly between India and China, poses challenges to the development of India-Nepal relations. These rivalries can impact the dynamics and create tensions in the region.  

Political instability: Nepal’s frequent political instability, characterized by changes in government and power-sharing arrangements, creates challenges in maintaining a consistent and stable relationship with India.  

Border disputes: Boundary disputes, such as the delineation of territories like Kalapani and Lipulekh, create challenges and strains in India-Nepal relations. These disputes can lead to tensions and hinder the development of a strong partnership.  

Meddling and perceptions: Reports of Indian meddling in Nepali politics and a perceived “Big Brother” behaviour have at times strained relations and created negative perceptions among Nepali parties and politicians.  

China’s influence: China’s expanding role in Nepal presents a challenge to India-Nepal relations. India needs to counter China’s influence by strengthening its economic cooperation with Nepal and fostering closer ties.  

Economic disparities: India’s ability to invest in Nepal may be limited compared to China, leading to economic disparities. Bridging these gaps and ensuring equitable economic cooperation can be a challenge in the relationship.    

Must read: Kalapani territorial dispute between India and Nepal

What should be done?

Strengthen bilateral engagement: Both India and Nepal should prioritize strengthening bilateral engagement through regular high-level visits, diplomatic dialogue, and people-to-people exchanges. This will help build trust and understanding between the two nations.  

Address border disputes: India and Nepal should engage in constructive dialogue to address and resolve border disputes, such as the delineation of territories like Kalapani and Lipulekh. Finding mutually acceptable solutions will contribute to a more stable and cooperative relationship.  

Avoid meddling and favouritism: India should refrain from interfering in Nepal’s internal political affairs and avoid perceived favouritism towards specific political parties. A neutral and unbiased approach will contribute to a more balanced and harmonious relationship.  

Counter China’s influence: India should proactively counter China’s growing influence in Nepal by strengthening its economic cooperation and infrastructure projects in the country. This will help mitigate any negative impact and maintain a healthy balance of power in the region.  

Focus on long-term interests: Both India and Nepal should focus on the long-term interests and benefits associated with their relations. Building a strong and sustainable partnership based on mutual trust, shared prosperity, and common aspirations will pave the way for a brighter future for both nations.

Read more: How To Be A Pal – on India Nepal Relations

Sources: Indian Express, Financial Express, Economic Times, The New Indian Express, Outlook India (Article 1 and Article 2) ORF and Deccan Herald.

Syllabus: GS 2: International Relations – India and Neighbourhood relations.

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