India and the World | Himalayan Thaw

The recent visit of Nepal’s army chief to India is likely to ease the bitterness between the two nations

Smruti D

Chief General Prabhu Ram Sharma was on an India visit from 9 to 12 November 2021 at the invitation from Indian Chief of Army Staff, Gen. M.M. Naravane. His visit was aimed at stepping up defence relations between the two neighbouring nations. He also held elaborate discussions on security cooperation with India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh.

Prime Ministers of India and Nepal during latter’s visit to India

Gen. Sharma also called on defence secretary Ajay Kumar, Army Chief M.M. Naravane and IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary during his visit. A press statement from the MoD ahead of Gen. Sharma’s visit had also stated that during the course of his visit, he would call upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.

Gen. Sharma was conferred with the Honorary Rank of Indian Army General at Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Ram Nath Kovind. Last year in November, Indian Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane had visited Nepal, with the purpose of bringing down the border tensions resulting in severe strain on bilateral ties. The tensions culminated in Nepal issuing a new map, showing the Kalapani-Lipulekh-Limpiyadhura region of Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand as a part of Nepal’s sovereign territory. During the visit Gen. Naravane too was conferred the honorary rank of General of Nepali Army by President Bidya Devi Bhandari.

Being immediate neighbours,India-Nepal relations  are crucial in terms of security and bilateral ties. In the recent times, several experts have written books on the bilateral relationship. Owing to tensions between the two countries, Nepalese have turned sceptical towards India and its intentions in recent times. The book written by former Indian ambassador, Ranjit Rae has garnered special attention.

On 13 October, Carnegie India hosted a webinar, titled ‘India and the World’, where speakers Ranjit Rae, Akhilesh Upadhyay, and Suhasini Haidar discussed history, and potential future, of the India-Nepal relationship. The talk was moderated by Deep Pal.

India and Nepal share a unique and complex relationship. In the past two decades, Nepal has gone through a dramatic socio-political transformation. India, a close neighbour, has been deeply associated with the developments in Nepal. The bilateral relationship between the two nations, in turn, has seen many changes. In his new book, 'Kathmandu Dilemma: Resetting India-Nepal Ties', former Indian ambassador, Ranjit Rae analyses the evolving India-Nepal relationship by drawing on diplomatic and personal experiences. The book provides a much-needed Indian perspective on the relationship between India and Nepal and where the ties may go from here. The book covers India-Nepal relationship over the years and delves, in quite some detail, into crucial events such as the Maoist issue and political main streaming as well as the 2020 Kalapani dispute.

He says, “In the last couple of years, the relationship has seen too many ups and downs. There have been stark lows and major highs, with Prime Minister Modi’s visit in 2014. I think we need to bring the relationship to a more even keel. In order to do that, there are a lot of issues that have been pending for a long time, and need to be addressed. To have a more harmonious relationship, the countries must resolve these problems such as the 1960 treaty, the boundary issue, the hydro-power cooperation.”

He adds that India-Nepal relations have been built on solid foundations. “The roti-beti relationship and civilisational connect or the people-to-people interaction, and I think that’s a very essential ingredient of the relationship. I personally think that we need to provide a new dynamism and I personally feel that we should really anchor the relationship in terms of economic engagement, that is the surest way, I think to smooth our relations. When I say economic engagement, by that I don’t just mean the bilateral economic engagement. I also mean the sub-regional economic engagement. We should look at economic space as an interdependent and inter-connected economic space, where there is no hindrance for trade and commerce,” he says.

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