RISHI DHAMALA, April 7: Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is in New Delhi on a three-day state visit. His major agendas are centered on economic development, progress and prosperity. His first foreign visit to New Delhi, since assuming office in February 15, has been watched with greater interest on both sides of the border. His Indian counterpart Narendra Modi has always stressed on the need for open discussion and close cooperation on economic, social, cultural and religious issues. As such, both leaders are seen willing to make concrete efforts to further mutually beneficial bilateral interests and add new dimensions to existing Indo-Nepal bilateral relationship.
On Tuesday, PM Oli briefed the federal parliament on the scope and agenda of his visit. This was his effort to allay concerns of opposition. In his address to the parliament, he made it clear that the discussions with his Indian counterpart will chiefly focus on making efforts to implement existing agreements rather than inking new ones. As a matter of fact, a host of bilateral projects are still in limbo. Another major agenda of the visit, as usual, is strengthening bilateral relationship.
Unlike his immediate predecessors, Oli leads a government with over two thirds majorities in the parliament. Many Nepalis expect that he will govern the country for a full five-year term.
There are many things common between PM Oli and PM Modi. Both rose to power on nationalist agenda. Modi’s political glamour across India is ineffable. Under his leadership BJP won the majority for the first time in Indian history—winning 282 seats, leading the National Democratic Alliance to a tally of 336 seats in the 543 seat Lok Shava in 2014 general election.
Both Oli and Modi have cemented their reputation as charismatic and popular leaders and people expect a lot from them. Both have large support from people. Therefore, their meeting in New Delhi carries a great significance for Nepal-India relationship. Both have great support from the parliament and the people and both have equally stressed on economic, social and cultural development.
Modi’s priority is economic and social development. After he took over in 2014, he has prioritized economic agenda. As such India has taken a giant stride in economic development. To achieve his goal, last November he announced India’s biggest-ever cash ban with a resolution to eliminate corruption, black money, terrorism, fake currency—all in one stroke. It started what some Indian media termed as the age of good governance.
He has reformed India’s taxation system, prioritized programs and policies that benefit farmers, and adopted ‘neighborhood first’ policy as main agenda of his foreign policy.
Like Modi, Oli has come up with ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ as the main agenda of his governance. He has promised to lead the country toward economic prosperity during his term. He has announced zero tolerance against corruption. His premiership is aimed at economic revolution through good governance. With both leaders carrying the similar agenda, Oli-Modi connection has ample basis to bring positive results.
Modi held telephone conversations with Oli, even before he was appointed PM. Thus, the one-to-one conversation which will be held between the two leaders during Oli’s visit will bear a special significance. The two leaders are expected to hold discussions about moving ahead together toward economic prosperity based on mutual cooperation and interest while building economic partnership. The talks will be focused on utilizing the existing socio-cultural and religious similarities, people to people connectivity and open borders for mutual benefit and economic development.
The two leaders are meeting at a time when India is being globally recognized as the fastest growing economy of the world.
Although Oli’s India visit will chiefly be focused on implementation of the past agreements, signing of some new agreements on bilateral trade and transportation cannot be ruled out. Oli has said that new agreements, if signed, will be in Nepal’s interest.
Nepal and India have made several agreements in the past. Many of these deals have not been implemented. The Eminent Persons Group is preparing its report on several agreements reached between the two countries including the 1950 Treaty. The two leaders are also expected to dwell on the EPG report during the meeting.
Late Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala during his visit in 2006 signed several agreements with India. Many of them have not been implemented, others have been delayed. Oli’s visit will remain focused on resolving problems hindering the implementation of these deals.
Friends in need
Since Indian PM rolled out red carpet for Oli, it is assumed that India too has attached great significance to Oli’s visit. Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri played an instrumental role in preparing the ground for this visit.
Despite some minor hiccups, Indo-Nepal bilateral relation is unique. Both the countries have connection at people-to-people level. India has always been ready to help Nepal at time of crisis. It was India which stepped ahead first to extend assistance during the 2015 April earthquake. Indian people also take Nepal as a holy land. Nepal has adequate resources while India has investment. With India striding as the fastest growing economy in the world, Nepal can reap a lot of benefits from India’s growing economy inviting investments in hydropower and several other sectors.
Oli and Modi had inaugurated Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur Transmission Line during Oli’s first visit to India in 2015. This time, the two prime ministers will jointly inaugurate 900 MW Arun III Hydro Power Project.
Oli will also discuss possible solutions to perennial problem of flood and inundation in Tarai region. He will also take up the issues of getting access for Nepali gas bullets in India and increasing number of entry points for international flights. A deal on inland waterway navigation between the two countries is also likely.
Modi has strong support for Oli’s ambition and journey toward Nepal’s economic prosperity. Oli should be able to utilize his visit to garner trust and work towards founding basis for improving bilateral ties that will boost the country’s economic and social development. If he can achieve these goals, he will be able to establish himself as the true statesman.
(This article was previously published in Republica Daily)