Friday, 1 December, 2023

PM Deuba’s Visit Boosts Nepal-India Ties

Ballav Dahal

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s fresh state visit to India has become instrumental in consolidating the age-old Nepal-India relations. Leading a Nepali delegation, PM Deuba paid a three-day sojourn to the southern neighbour from April 1-3 at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
It was for the first time that PM Deuba visited India following the formation of the present coalition government in July last year. About four years back, erstwhile Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had made his official trip to India.

Notable initiative
One of the notable initiatives taken during the visit was that the two countries have agreed to constitute a joint mechanism to deal with border-related issues persisting between these immediate neighbours. In the course of holding bilateral talks between Deuba and Modi, the former had called for such an instrument. Then, Modi agreed on the proposal. Once this mechanism comes into being, the process of resolving the long-drawn border issue is expected to commence.
Addressing a joint press conference organised in New Delhi after the bilateral talks, PM Deuba said that he discussed the boundary issues with Modi and called for resolving them through established mechanisms.

Nepal had been in favour of settling the border disputes through political and diplomatic channels since the beginning. No sooner had India issued a new political map incorporating Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura into its boundary than Nepal intensified efforts to reclaim these encroached territories. The Nepal government had repeatedly called upon the Indian leadership to sit for a dialogue on the contentious matter. But in one pretext or the other, the India side had not shown its willingness to move the process ahead. Thus, the border problem had remained static.

Then, the Nepal government had also published a fresh map with the inclusion of those territories. The map had been ratified by the federal parliament. With that action, the diplomatic relations between the two nations had soured. Various historical evidences, including the Sugauli Treaty, justify that all the territories lying to the east of the Kali River belong to Nepal.
Another initiative is that the two nations have come up with the Nepal-India Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation. The two leaders agreed for bidirectional power trade with proper access to electricity markets in both the nations. This will be based on mutual benefits, market demand and applicable domestic regulations of each nation. They also reached an understanding to expand such cooperation to include their partner countries in line with the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal) framework. This vision statement may prove to be a milestone in energy generation and its trade.

With many hydropower plants coming up in Nepal, the country is going to have a lot of surplus electricity. The nation could reap lots of benefits through promoting power trade. This may be an effective way for the country to reduce her existing trade deficit. As the demand for power in Bangladesh has been rising steadily, the densely populated nation is now interested in purchasing a lot of electricity from Nepal. But power transmission between these two nations is possible only with the support from India.
In the same way, the two nations have agreed on a coordinated operation of national grids and institutional cooperation in sharing the latest operational information and technology. This is expected to enable the country to export power.

Meanwhile, the two countries have agreed to finalise the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, part of the Mahakali Treaty signed about 26 years ago. However, the two nations have been unable to prepare the DPR of the Pancheshwar Project. Bilateral discussions regarding the finalisation of this important document may begin in the near future as the two leaders have now prioritised it.

According to a statement issued on Saturday (April 2), the two leaders decided to carry out the projects and initiatives in line with the joint vision. They also agreed to continue backing up each other's national growth and prosperity based on mutual respect and equality.

The two leaders also delved into several other issues like security concerns and enhancement of connectivity concerns. They jointly inaugurated the Jayanagar-Kurtha railway service and the Solu Corridor 132 KV double circuit transmission line virtually. They also launched RuPay payment card. With its operationalisation, it will be easier for Indian travellers to have access to ATMs during their trip to Nepal.

It needs no mention that the two immediate neighbours have enjoyed cordial ties since time immemorial. The bilateral relations between Nepal and India have been based on long history and cultural and religious similarities. The intimate ties are comprehensive and multidimensional.

Unique feature
With long open border and no visa provision, the people from both the countries have found it easy to cross the frontier. The open border is undoubtedly an exceptional feature of Nepal-India relations. Border without restriction has been very helpful for the free movement of Nepalis and Indians across the frontier. With the two peoples’ frequent meetings and interactions, they have their ties boosted.

The distinct relations between the two nations are founded on the firm commitment to the principles of peaceful coexistence, sovereign equality, and understanding of each other’s aspirations and sensitivities. Despite some longstanding border-related problems coupled with few other issues, the relations between Nepal and India have continued to get strengthened ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations in June 1947.

India, as a major development partner of Nepal, has continuously contributed to the latter’s development endeavours. The southern neighbour has assisted Nepal in a number of areas such as infrastructure development, education, health, post-quake rebuilding, among others. It may be recalled here that India rescued her citizens along with many Nepalis staying in Ukraine immediately after the escalation of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

(Dahal is a deputy executive editor at TRN.)