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Sher Bahadur Deuba’s three-day visit to reboot India-Nepal ties

Sher Bahadur Deuba’s three-day visit to reboot India-Nepal ties
March 29
17:30 2022

NEW DELHI: At the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nepal’s PM Sher Bahadur Deuba is set to embark on a three-day official visit to India from April 1 to 3, on his first official trip since his appointment as Prime Minister in July last year.

Both the PMs had previously met in Glasgow in November on the sidelines of the UN climate conference.
Since Deuba came to power in July, there have been several rounds of interactions between the two sides. In early October, a special delegation of the ruling Nepali Congress led by its deputy general secretary and former foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat arrived in New Delhi and held meetings with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and BJP president JP Nadda. The talks mainly focused on ways to strengthen bilateral ties.

The visit came in the backdrop of the visit of Vijay Chauthaiwale, who heads the foreign affairs department of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to Kathmandu in August at the invitation of NC as part of Nepal’s efforts to enhance bilateral ties. In September, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Jaishankar met his new Nepalese counterpart Dr Narayan Khadka in New York and both agreed to work together closely to take the special relationship between the two countries forward.

Under the previous regime of PM Oli, Nepal-India relations had become very strained due to increased Chinese influence in Nepal’s internal affairs. Such influences were sometimes used against India. For example, other than intra-party disputes in the NCP, there were news reports claiming that Chinese influenced some top Nepali leaders of the NCP and put pressure on PM Oli to issue a new map of Nepal including three areas of Lipulekh, Limpiyadra, and Kalapani.

Earlier, NCP leaders like Bamdev Gautam, Jhalanath Khanal and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (alias Prachanda) had discussed the Kalapani issue with the northern neighbour, with whom they are ideologically close.

Rapprochement efforts were made starting with Indian foreign intelligence chief Samant Goel’s visit to Kathmandu, which was followed by the visit of Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali to Delhi. External Affairs Minister of India S Jaishankar also visited Kathmandu in August 2019 to take part in the fifth Nepal-India Joint Commission meeting. In November 2020, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla also arrived in Kathmandu as an introductory visit.

Despite the low in bilaterals during Oli’s regime, India gifted one million domestically manufactured Covishield vaccines to Nepal in January 2021 as it struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

India also provided grant assistance of NRs 30.66 crore (INR 19.21 cr) to Nepal as part of its commitment towards the reconstruction of educational institutions damaged during the devastating 2015 earthquake, which claimed nearly 9,000 lives and wounded nearly 22,000. With this, India reimbursed NRs 81.98 crore (INR 51.37 cr) to Nepal towards educational sector reconstruction projects.

But a political crisis was triggered by infighting in the then ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Oli, who unsuccessfully dissolved Parliament twice and was ultimately ousted from the government in July 2021 and Deuba returned to power with the backing of all anti-Oli forces. Deuba has shared a cordial relation with India during his previous stints.

When Nepal was framing a new Constitution in 2015, according to a report in The Kathmandu Post, India is said to have urged for a broad-based consensus among stakeholders and Deuba had spoken openly about India’s non-interference and its support. He is also known to have said that India urging for maximum consensus was to ensure that stakeholders do not oppose the Constitution in the future.

Last year Nepal Army chief General Prabhu Ram Sharma embarked on a four-day visit to India to step up defence ties between the two neighbouring nations. During his visit to New Delhi on the invitation of his Indian counterpart General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Sharma was conferred with the title of honorary ‘General of Indian Army’ by President Ram Nath Kovid.

The year 2021 ended with a positive note with Jaishankar in December announcing that the reconstruction of 50,000 houses, destroyed in the 2015 Nepal earthquake, in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts under Indian assistance has been completed. Addressing the virtual International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction, Jaishankar underscored that India will always unhesitatingly step up to support the people of Nepal whenever called to do so.

Some irritants continue to remain which Deuba and Modi are likely to discuss during their one-on-one meeting. All outstanding issues between Nepal and India will be discussed during Deuba’s visit. Agreements between Nepal and India, including on cross-border railway, are on the table.

The Kurtha-Jayanagar railway is on a dry run since the second week of February for the lack of a law to guide the operations. The government has for the meantime reissued the railway ordinance for the operation of the cross-border shuttle. India has also built a road via Lipulekh to Mansorvar in Tibet, to which Nepal has taken exception as it is a tri-junction between the three countries. (ANI)

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