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India and Nepal: moving beyond the hurdles of Past

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    16th Feb, 2022

Context

The latest statement made by the Indian Embassy in Nepal on the issue of border dispute between the two countries.

Background

  • India and Nepal share the history of cordial relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
  • The warmth between the two seems to have been lost in last few years and one of the main reason of the same is the border disputes, with respect to territories of Limpiadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani, between the two countries.
  • The Indian Embassy on 16th January, 2022 reiterated the view of the Indian Government stating that all the above-mentioned territories are part of India.

Analysis

Turning point in India-Nepal relationship:

  • India and Nepal experienced friendly and cordial bond with each other since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two.
  • The prime example of the good relations that were shared by the countries of India and Nepal is the India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950 and its provisions.

The 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, officially called as Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the Government of India and Government of Nepal, is a bilateral treaty between Nepal and India establishing a close strategic relationship between the two South Asian neighbours. The treaty was signed in Kathmandu on 31 July 1950. 

This treaty allows free movement of people and goods between the two nations and a close relationship and collaboration between the two countries on matters of defense and foreign policy.

  • The relationship between the two countries though began to change after a political understanding between the Nepali Government and the Maoist fighters in the country was reached.
  • A 12-point understanding among Nepal’s eight political parties including Maoists, signed in November 2005 in Delhi.
  • The above understanding ended monarchy in Nepal and converted it into a republic.
  • Till this point India was for long a factor — and to a large extent the sole external actor — in Nepal’s internal politics. But when India openly took the lead role in transforming the internal polity of Nepal it set off events leading to India losing its clout and allies in Nepal.
  • It is important to note that the EU and US had begun to emerge as India’s allies in Nepal’s transition after 2005-06.
  • China, worried about the combined presence of India, US and EU in Nepal and their influence on internal politics, began increasing its presence and investment in Nepal, targeting tourism, post-earthquake reconstruction, trade and energy, with a message that its interest in Nepal is no less than India’s or its allies put together.

The current state of relationship 

  • The bilateral relations between India and Nepal have hit the rock-bottom though the two are far to be termed at adversaries of each other.
  • Drop in cordiality between the two can be attributed to factors such as- blockage of 2015, territorial disputes, condition of Nepali immigrants in India, growing influence of China in Nepal etc.

What measures are required?

  • Mutual understanding: India and Nepal both need to understand the requirement of using bilateral mechanisms, that have been set resolve disputes between the two countries, to their fullest potential.
  • Focus on resolving issues: The border dispute between the two countries look minor, but allowing it to fester is likely to sow the seeds of immense competition and intense rivalry in the sensitive Himalayan frontier with far-reaching geopolitical implications. Both the countries therefore have to focus their energies towards resolving these amicably.
  • Government-to-Government bonding: It is true that Nepal-India relations are largely governed by people-to-people relations, but the importance of government-to-government relations can no longer be underestimated.

Sandeep Lamichhane, 18-year-old Nepali leg-spinner, made history on January 28, 2018 when he became the first cricketer from Nepal to sign for an IPL team. Lamichhane was bought by Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals).

  • Increasing trade and economic ties: Since Nepal’s dependence on India is more than India’s dependence on Nepal, it is all the more necessary to balance such relations. To increase India’s dependence on Nepal, it is necessary to increase trade and economic activities at the forefront. Interdependence between Nepal and India is the secret to reset the relations between the neighbours. 
  • Easy movement: Towards this end, the two countries could also build an international corridor along the 1,753 kilometre Nepal-India border region to facilitate greater movement of commercial vehicles between the two countries. 
  • Multilateral forums: The focus should also be given to more air, road, train, and waterways connectivity, apart from playing an active role in several important multilateral forums such as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal), BIMSTEC, NAM, and SAARC to serve their common interests.

Way forward

Nepal-India relations are deep, wide-ranging, and unique, but also fraught with complexities.  It is important for both the countries to understand that bilateral relations are dynamic in nature and reviewing them constantly in the wake of changing economic, strategic, political and global realities is necessary.

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