Nepal, India witness see-saw relations

  • modi’s two years as indian pm
  • Both need to introspect on flawed policies: Observers
- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, NEW DELHI

May 27, 2016-

When Narendra Modi took the oath of office to become the 15th prime minister of India two years ago on May 26, 2014, Nepal’s then prime minister Sushil Koirala was one among the South Asian leaders who were in New Delhi to mark the occasion. 

Within three months, in the first week of August, Modi landed in Kathmandu in a first visit by an Indian prime minister in 17 years. 

India’s prompt response in rescue and relief efforts the next year in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes were but seen as signs that the two countries were set to reach a new high when it came to bilateral relations.

As Modi’s tenure enters its third year, bilateral ties remain a bit strained. The promulgation of the constitution in September 2015 is what triggered the setback. And since then, Nepal-India relations have struggled to be back on track, with calls for both the governments to introspect on their “flawed policies” and work towards mending ties. 

“I am very hopeful that relations between the two countries will revert to a normal course soon because issues related to constitution and Madhes are only occasional ones, which will be resolved,” said Prof BC Upreti, a member of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) of India, a mechanism formed to review the treaties and relations between the two neighbours. “I am hopeful that Modi government will devote more time and energy to make relations between the two countries more effective and cordial in the coming days.” In the initial months, Modi himself played a proactive role for increasing interactions with Nepali leaders, but it soon fell through, according to observers.

India’s displeasure at Nepal’s political parties “rushing through the constitution” and border blockade soured relations between the two neighbours, while the new government led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in Nepal that came in place in October appeared to be doing too less to mend the ties. 

Indian “efforts” and calls for “broader consensus” were taken by Nepal as “undue interference”.

Some Indian foreign policy experts view Modi’s moves as “blunders of his government’s Nepal policy”.

The first amendment to the constitution in January resulted in the end of over four-month-long blockade, paving the way for PM Oli’s visit to India in the third week of February. At the end of the visit, PM Oli declared that misunderstandings between the two countries had been cleared. 

Though Oli claimed that the visit had taken Nepal-India ties back to the 2014 

level, when Modi visited Nepal, the Indian side remained sceptical.While many in Nepal blamed the government for ratcheting up anti-India sentiment, the Oli administration continued to show reluctance to accommodate Madhesi and Janajati parties’ concerns. 

 “After PM Oli’s visit to India, relations between the two countries had normalised to a great extent. Then suddenly there were conspiracies to change the government. This was not the will of the Nepali people, nor of our neighbours, as no one will benefit 

from a destabilised Nepal,” said Pradeep Gyawali, a CPN-UML leader close to PM Oli.

This led to the cancellation of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s visit to New Delhi and recalling of Nepali Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay. 

Additionally, the Oli government’s continued anti-India rhetoric damaged the relations further.

“After January 2016, India has been trying to control the damage done by its “blockade” diplomacy and categorical support of the Madhes issue. India wants relations with Nepal to stay normal,” said Professor SD Muni, an experienced Nepal hand. “What is happening now is Modi has been alienated both by Kathmandu and Madhes,” Muni added.

Experts and political leaders say there is the need for reviving the cordial relations between the two countries at the political level. According to them, both the sides should introspect on their weaknesses to achieve better relations.

Published: 27-05-2016 08:21

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