Stabilising ties with Nepal in uncertain times

Source– The post is based on the article “Stabilising ties with Nepal in uncertain times” published in The Hindu on 6th January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- India and its neighbourhood relations

Relevance– India and Nepal bilateral relations

News– The article explains the significance of recent election results for bilateral relations. It also explains the China factor in relationships and suggests the steps needed for improving ties.

What is the significance of election results in Nepal for bilateral relations?

Prachanda has become the Prime Minister. He decided to revive his earlier alliance with former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who heads the CPN.

On the positive side, it includes the peaceful mainstreaming of the Maoist movement into the democratic structure, and the integration of guerrillas into the Nepal Army. The peaceful transfer of power, the adoption of a Constitution and the emergence of a federal structure are another political developments

On the negative side, the hung Parliament may lead to instability. This could translate into an inability to deal with the many daunting challenges confronting the country.

The continuing unpredictability in the India-Nepal cooperation due to frequent changes of government is another cause of concern.

Why should India not overemphasise the China factor?

India is used to dealing with political instability in Nepal and anti-India or pro-China leaders heading governments. Its focus for many years has been on non-partisan support for inclusive economic development, interdependence, communication links, and people-to-people contacts.

The extent of its linkages of history, geography, culture, religion, and economy with Nepal facilitate management of its security concerns within tolerable limits.

Moreover, leaders like Prachanda and Mr. Oli are seasoned veterans capable of making  judgments in their long-term political interests. They talk about the new government adopting a policy of “equi-proximity” with India and China.

It is evident even in robust democracies that ideological consistency has less meaning in the politician’s search for power. Labels such as ‘pro-India’ or ‘anti-India’ should not be taken very seriously. Even, ultranationalist leaders such as Mr. Oli and Prachanda have sometimes questioned the senseless opposition to India.

Public opinion in Nepal is now sensitive to Chinese intentions, the risks of falling into a debt trap, and the limitations in terms of Chinese capacities in comparison to India’s. China’s image has deteriorated because of COVID-19.

What is the way forward for the Indo-Nepal relationship?

India, however, cannot be complacent. Traditional irritants such as the 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship and the border issue should be resolved in an open and transparent manner.

Worldview of the East India Company or British India should not determine the policies. Nepal is a transforming country. India is a player on the global stage. The world itself is heading towards major transformations, changing priorities and boundless possibilities.

The COVID-19 crisis is one of the largest shocks to the global socioeconomic framework. It is the time for fresh thinking on issues like economic recovery; bilateral, sub-regional and regional cooperation; restructuring supply chains.

Other issues that need attention are security; energy cooperation; development; people-to-people contacts and soft power to maximise mutual advantage.

Empathy is an urgent necessity for sustainable friendly ties. It is the will of stakeholders from each side to understand each other’s concerns.

There is a need for a diverse but balanced and constructive approach to India-Nepal relations.

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