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UPSC Sansad TV: AIR- Spotlight: India-Nepal Bilateral Ties

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Introduction:

FM Jaishankar’s two days visit to Nepal to co-chair with his Nepalese counterpart the 7th Nepal-India Joint Commission meeting and signing of a slew of impacts, ranging from agriculture to road construction to defence to energy and many other sectors, tells India’s commitment to its neighbourhood policy first with Nepal as our priority partner.
India-Nepal Relations:

  • Nepal is definitely a priority partner for India.
  • It is highest priority partner in India’s neighbourhood first foreign policy and we have seen that right since 2014.
  • Trade and economy:
    • India is Nepal’s largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments, besides providing transit for almost the entire third country trade of Nepal.
    • Indian firms engage in manufacturing, services (banking, insurance, dry port), power sector and tourism industries etc.
  • Connectivity:
    • Nepal being a landlocked country, it is surrounded by India from three sides and one side is open towards Tibet which has very limited vehicular access.
    • India-Nepal has undertaken various connectivity programs to enhance people-to-people linkages and promote economic growth and development.
    • MOUs have been signed between both the governments for laying electric rail track linking Kathmandu with Raxaul in India.
    • India is looking to develop the inland waterways for the movement of cargo, within the framework of trade and transit arrangements, providing additional access to sea for Nepal calling it linking Sagarmath (Mt. Everest) with Sagar (Indian Ocean).
  • Development Assistance:
    • Government of India provides development assistance to Nepal, focusing on creation of infrastructure at the grass-root level.
    • The areas assistance include infrastructure, health, water resources, and education and rural & community development.
  • Defence Cooperation:
    • Bilateral defence cooperation includes assistance to Nepalese Army in its modernization through provision of equipment and training.
    • The Gorkha Regiments of the Indian Army are raised partly by recruitment from hill districts of Nepal.
    • India from 2011, every year undertakes joint military exercise with Nepal known as Surya Kiran.
  • Cultural:
    • There have been initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts in the area of art & culture, academics and media with different local bodies of Nepal.
    • India has signed three sister-city agreements for twinning of Kathmandu-Varanasi, Lumbini-Bodhgaya and Janakpur-Ayodhya.
  • Humanitarian Assistance:
    • Nepal lies in sensitive ecological fragile zone which is prone to earthquakes, floods causing massive damage to both life and money, whereby it remains the biggest recipient of India’s humanitarian assistance.
  • Indian Community:
    • Huge number of Indians lives in Nepal, these include businessmen, traders, doctors, engineers and labourers (including seasonal/migratory in the construction sector).
  • Multilateral Partnership:
    • India and Nepal shares multiple multilateral forums such as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) NAM, and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) etc.

Way forward

  • On border issue:
    • The two countries have managed to settle about 98% of the common border.
    • More than 8,500 boundary pillars have been installed reflecting the agreed alignment.
    • As both countries are laying claim to the same piece of land, the time has come for both countries to sit for talks to solve this issue.
  • Completion of the ongoing process of updating the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship:
    • India must recognise that as in all other developing economies, Nepal’s aspirational young population is also looking beyond the open Indian border for opportunities, and its desire to turn his “land-locked” country into a “land-linked” country with a merchant navy must be considered positively.
  • People-to-people inter-dependence must lead the relationship along with civil society and business-commercial level interactions.
  • India’s major foray should be in innovation and technology transfer, multidisciplinary dialogues, educational and technical institutions, local and global migration management and skills and capacity-building.
  • India needs to finish the infrastructure projects on time for instance Pancheswar project has been pending for over 20 years now.
  • Nepal could be the fountainhead of climate change knowledge and connect to India’s larger dynamics of the management of the ecology of hills and mountains.
  • Effective delivery on the pending projects, the remaining ICPs, the five railway connections, postal road network in the Terai and the petroleum pipeline so that connectivity is enhanced and the idea of ‘inclusive development and prosperity’ assumes reality.
  • Negotiate diplomatically to resolve the boundary dispute with Nepal under the aegis of International law on Trans-Boundary Water Disputes.In this case, boundary dispute resolution between India and Bangladesh should serve as a model for this.
  • India should maintain a policy of keeping away from the internal affairs of Nepal, while at the same time, in the spirit of friendship, India should guide the nation towards a more inclusive democracy.
  • With its immense strategic relevance in the Indian context as Indian security concern, stable and secure Nepal is one requisite which India can’t afford to overlook.
  • India needs to formulate a comprehensive and long-term Nepal policy.
  • India should stop looking at Nepal purely through a security prism, and at bilateral relations only as transactional and part of a zero-sum game with China.
  • Focus on working towards multifaceted relationships to the advantage of both nations.