India-Nepal relations in a new transition

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    Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Nepal for a third time.

    Implications for India 

    • The recent political developments in Nepal might recalibrate a new momentum in India-Nepal ties.
      • India can take this development in its stride. 
    • India and Nepal are uniquely positioned, because of the breadth and depth of ties between them, to jointly rethink economic governance with a view to enhancing human welfare. 
    • Diverse but balanced and constructive approaches to India-Nepal relations will contribute to a clearer understanding of the past, better awareness of present trends, and new roadmaps for substantive upgrading of ties in the years to come.
    • Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda who is seen as pro-China, has in the past said a new understanding with India needed to be developed on the basis of a “changed scenario” in Nepal and after addressing all outstanding issues, like a revision of the 1950 Friendship Treaty and resolving Kalapani and Susta border disputes.

    India-Nepal Relations 

    • India and Nepal share unique ties of friendship and cooperation.
      • The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 forms the bedrock of the special relations between the two countries.
    • Both countries share close and friendly relations characterized by age-old historical and cultural linkages, open borders and deep-rooted people-to-people contacts. 
      • The country shares a border of over 1,850 km with five Indian states – Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
    • With regular exchanges of high-level visits and interactions, the two nations have further elevated their strategic relation.
    • Economic cooperation has been one of the leading focal points shared between the two nations, as India is Nepal’s largest trading partner.
    • India’s contribution to the connectivity and development partnership in Nepal has been one of the major aspects of its foreign policy.
    • India’s development assistance to Nepal has focused on the creation of infrastructure at the grass-roots level. 
      • Various projects have been implemented in the areas of infrastructure, health, water resources, education, and rural and community development.
    • Connectivity: Land-locked Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services. 
      • Nepal’s access to the sea is through India, and it imports a predominant proportion of its requirements from and through India.
    • Defence and security cooperation: India and Nepal have long-standing and extensive mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of defence and security.
    • Disaster Management: Operation Maitri & post-earthquake reconstruction assistance:
    • India and Nepal have robust cooperation in the power sector. 
    • GoI initiatives to promote cultural exchanges include cultural programmes, symposia, and events organized in partnership with different local bodies of Nepal, as well as conferences and seminars in Hindi, and Sanskrit. 
      • India and Nepal have been working on building a tourism circuit that connects the pilgrimage sites located in the two countries. The Vishwanath temple of Varanasi is part of that vision which intends to connect devotees with the Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu.
    • COVID assistance: As part of our Covid-19 assistance, India supplied more than 23 tonnes of medicines and medical equipment to Nepal on Grant basis during the first wave of COVID-19.

    Issues /Challenges 

    •  In 2015, India first got blamed for interfering in the Constitution drafting process and then for an “unofficial blockade” that generated widespread resentment against India.
    • China has shifted attention to the political parties and to institutions such as the Army and Armed Police Force and considers Nepal an important element in its growing South Asian footprint.
    • Kalapani dispute:  The area is in India’s control but Nepal claims the region because of historical and cartographic reasons. 
      • The area is the largest territorial dispute between Nepal and India consisting of at least 37,000 hectares of land in the High Himalayas.
    • India had termed as “untenable” the “artificial enlargement” of the territorial claims by Nepal after its Parliament unanimously in 2020 approved the new political map of the country featuring Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura areas which India maintains belong to it.

    Conclusion and Way Forward 

    • The commonalities between Nepal and India and the extent of engagements have created a synergy for robust interdependence. 
    • We must capitalize on these enablers to ensure that the cooperation bears fruit for the people of both countries. 
    • Goodwill, trust, understanding, equality, mutual respect and benefit should continue to underpin our relationship,
    • Issues between Nepal and India should be resolved diplomatically
    • India and Nepal need to address diplomatically some of the issues “left by history” to realise the full potential of the bilateral cooperation.
    • Now,It is the time for fresh thinking on a host of issues, including economic recovery; bilateral, sub-regional, and regional cooperation; restructuring supply chains; human as well as conventional security; energy cooperation; development; people-to-people contacts; and the untapped potential for technology to accelerate inclusive growth, and soft power to maximise mutual advantage.

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q] What are the shared concerns and common interests of India and Nepal?Elaborate