Nepal-India Relations: Missed Opportunity : Dr. Jaya Raj Acharya

Dr. Jaya Raj Acharya  Former PR to the UN: The rise of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister was a significant development in India that has seen a single party majority government in the center after decades. He evinced strong leadership with a vision for India and South Asia as a whole and made new initiatives in both domestic and external affairs.  He invited the SAARC heads of government to his oath-taking ceremony that gave a refreshing feeling. Even Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif was under pressure to go to New Delhi despite the traditional difficulties in Indo-Pak relations. Modi himself made a surprise visit to Pakistan on Dec 25, 2015 on his way back from Kabul. Thus he is seen as making all possible efforts to improve India’s relations with its immediate neighbors.

Nepal could build a very strong and productive relationship with India given Modi’s goodwill that he expressed at the Constituent Assembly during his visit to Nepal in August 2014. He announced 100 billion rupees soft loan in addition to the traditional Indian aid program for Nepal but that money remains unused. Another 100 billion was pledged for the reconstruction of earthquake-damaged properties and infrastructures. That amount also remains unused. And the reconstruction work has not started even after ten long months of monsoon rain and severe winter.

Leaders in Nepal have frustrated their own people and frittered Mr. Modi’s goodwill that could be cashed for the benefit of both countries. Promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 2015 should have been a milestone on Nepal’s progress in domestic and foreign affairs. Ironically, the historic document produced by the Constituent Assembly elected by the sovereign people has invited more problems than solutions to the nation’s challenges disappointing the people at home and governments in both neighbors.

Nepali and Indian people have a strong base of mutual goodwill. It is the leaders who falter at times in fostering it at the level of governments. One can only hope that PM Oli’s visit will result in strengthening it at the government level as well and that it will prove to be a successful goodwill visit.