RISHI DHAMALA, Aug 16, 2017

The independence movement against colonialism during the mid-twentieth century challenged the very basis of the European colonialism in Asian and African countries. In India, this movement resulted in a new wave of nationalism. Fueled by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent revolution, the movement ultimately secured India’s independence from the British Raj in August 1947.

The Indian independence war indeed disseminated a powerful message to people around the globe. Leaders from India and Nepal jointly worked in the Indian non-cooperation movement which eventually laid a solid foundation for the development of a positive and cordial Indo-Nepal diplomatic bond. The active participation of Nepalese leaders like BP Koirala, Pushpa Lal Shrestha, Ganeshman Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, Girija Prasad Koirala and Manmohan Adhikari in the Indian independence struggle also encouraged them to launch independence campaign here at home and liberate people from the tyranny of the ruling Rana dynasty.

Indian leaders Jawaharlal Nehru, Jay Prakash Narayan and Rammanohar Lohiya made significant contribution to Nepal’s political revolution of 1951 (2007 BS). The revolution culminated with the end of 103-years long Rana dynasty and establishment of a democratic government for the first time. Similarly, support from Indian leaders and the people during the 1990’s multiparty political movement in Nepal brought an end to the absolute Panchayat rule in Nepal.

India also played an important role in bringing Maoist rebels to talks and in the 2006 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord that became the basis for reestablishing democracy in the country by ending constitutional monarchy and the decade-long insurgency. India continues to be one of the most important bilateral partners to these days.

In the aftermath of devastating April 2015 earthquake that claimed 8,900 lives and left 2,200 injured, the Indian government had responded immediately through ‘Operation Maitri’, a rescue and relief operation in Nepal. It pledged more than Rs 10 billion for reconstruction efforts.

Our relationship traces back to ancient times and overtime the relationship has been become multi-dimensional. Changes in either territory directly or indirectly influence the other. Both countries have close linguistic, marital, religious and cultural ties at people to people level. The northern Himalayan range of Nepal is famous as the ‘water tower’ of South Asia. Rivers originating in Nepal run through India and irrigate most of its agricultural land. These rivers have made significant contribution to both nations’ development.

Despite geographical and political links and people-to-people connectivity, it is rather unfortunate that two countries have not been able to reap the immense potential in economic development. In the past few years, political issues and border disputes have strained the relations between two countries, which at various levels have proved costly and cannot be overlooked.

The 1950 Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship accord cemented “a special relationship” between the two countries, which also granted Nepalese, the same economic and educational opportunities as Indian citizen in India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Nepal in 2014, shared that India always considers Nepal as a special neighbor and has high goodwill for Nepal. Likewise, Nepal has also treated India in the same way. Ever since Modi became the prime minister of India, exchanges of high level visits have become more frequent and bi-lateral mechanisms have been activated.

Prime Minister Modi was the first prime minister of India to visit Nepal after 17 years. His historic visit, which was focused on the 4Cs – cooperation, connectivity, culture and constitution – greatly enhanced bilateral ties between two countries.

PM Modi has already visited Nepal twice and is planning another courtesy visit in the near future. His third tour of Nepal is expected to lay foundation stone of Arun III hydro power project. Officials at Indian Embassy in Nepal often report that Modi regularly collects information about the progress of various Indian-backed development projects and initiatives in Nepal. Indian envoy to Nepal, Manjiv Singh Puri shared that Modi accords Nepal’s prosperity, political stability and development top priority in India’s foreign policy. Modi, he shares, has shown keen interest on Postal Highway and railway tracks construction.

Among others, the Indian prime minister has given direct orders to finalize the DPR of the Pancheshwor Multipurpose Project. Investment in Arun II hydropower project materialized during his term. Given his willingness and abilities that we have observed so far, it seems that Modi can usher in an era of mutual development and common path to prosperity.

But there is also some anti-Indian sentiment in Nepal, as has been reflected in actions and words of some Nepali political leaders in past few years. While there are some outstanding issues that leaders of both nations need to resolve through diplomacy, they should fuel ultra-nationalistic views and anti-Indian sentiments to secure their vote bank. Modi government’s interest in Nepalese affairs and development should be seen in positive light and internal discussion among political parties should focus on utilizing this positive relationship for mutual benefit.

Prime Minister Sher Bhadur Deuba is scheduled to visit India from August 23 on his first official trip overseas at the invitation of Indian PM Modi. His five-day state-visit to India will be significant and will focus on implementing the past accords that were signed during his three previous visits to India (1996, 2002 and 2004) as prime minister. PM Deuba will also dwell on the status of the India-funded projects and cross border connectivity projects and will discuss issues, if any, that have impeded the implementation of projects.

The two countries reached an agreement to sign Mahakali Treaty when Deuba was the prime minister 22 years ago. Even though Deuba was in minority, he was able to garner two-thirds majority in support of the treaty.

Although the Pancheshwor Multipurpose Project finally started moving forward after Indian Prime Minster Modi visited Nepal, the DPR is yet to be finalized. This will be among the top agendas of PM Deuba’s Delhi visit later this month.

During her recent trip to Nepal, Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj spoke of how Deuba-Pushpa Kamal Dahal coalition had further strengthened diplomatic ties between two countries. According to experts, Nepali Congress-CPN (Maoist Center) coalition has been rather successful both on domestic and foreign fronts. Deuba’s visit to India can thus be expected to start a new chapter in Indo-Nepal bilateral ties.

Both Deuba and Modi are charismatic characters and both of them share the willingness to make things happen. If Deuba-Modi chemistry works out in their upcoming meeting, it will definitely pave the way for the two countries to grow and prosper together.

(This article was previously published in Republica Daily)

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