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India-Nepal relations back on track in 2017

In April, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari made her first abroad trip to New Delhi after assuming office in 2015, highlighting the significance of the ties with India.

By: PTI | Kathmandu |
December 27, 2017 1:28:00 pm
India, Nepal, India-nepal relation, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Narendra Modi, nepal government, Arun jaitley, nepali congress, OPOR, China, Gen Chang Wanquan, During the visit, Bhandari met President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and discussed all aspects of bilateral ties.

India-Nepal relations were back on track in 2017 with the high-level bilateral exchanges but their future ties would depend mainly on the approach adopted by the pro-China Left alliance which came to power in the recently concluded parliamentary polls.

The Himalayan nation, sandwiched between India and China, saw enhanced military ties with them in 2017, with Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat and Chinese Defence Minister Gen Chang Wanquan visiting Nepal to strengthen security cooperation.

In April, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari made her first abroad trip to New Delhi after assuming office in 2015, highlighting the significance of the ties with India.

During the visit, Bhandari met President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and discussed all aspects of bilateral ties.

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Her visit was “fruitful in enhancing the relations and goodwill between the two countries”, after a period of unease in bilateral ties following the violent agitation in 2015 by Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, who blocked Indo-Nepal border demanding more representation in Parliament and redrawing of provincial boundaries.

Prior to the Nepalese president’s visit to India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was here to attend the Nepal Investment Summit during which he reiterated India’s commitment to support its landlocked neighbour in infrastructure needs.

India had pledged Rs 44 million to its neighbour for construction of the building of technical institutions.

In June, Nepal witnessed change of guard when 70-year-old Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba was elected as the prime minister of Nepal for the record fourth term, after Prachanda handed over the reign to the veteran leader under a power sharing deal.

In the later part of the year, Deuba, who is considered close to India, made a state visit to New Delhi after becoming the premier. He met top leaders including Prime Minister Modi.

Deuba discussed about completing the detailed project report of Pancheshwer Multipurpose Project with Indian officials. He also sought from India more economic development assistance and investments in Nepal.

He termed his visit as successful in laying foundation for further strengthening Nepal-India ties.

Ahead of Deuba’s visit, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was here in July to attend the meeting of BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation). She held talks with Nepalese leaders on the sidelines of the meet and both sides expressed their commitment to deepen the friendly bilateral relations.

Also, India’s then railway minister Suresh Prabhu visited Nepal to discuss issues related to connecting the country with Delhi and Kolkata through rail network. The rail connectivity is important for the landlocked nation as its major exports or imports takes place through Indian ports.

The year saw Nepal’s growing inclination towards China after the country became part of its ambitious “One Belt One Region” (OBOR) initiative, which is viewed by India with suspicion.

Nepal’s then prime minister Prachanda, who is also the head of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre, visited China to take part in the Boao Conference in March. He also met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior leaders.

Another example of growing China-Nepal relations was the first 10-day joint military drill ‘Sagarmatha Friendship-2017’ in which Chinese People’s Liberation Army squad took part in the counter-terrorism and disaster response.

In May, along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Nepal officially became part of Beijing’s ambitious OBOR initiative, which aims to invest in infrastructural projects to revive the famous Silk Road trade routes.

Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and Chinese Envoy to Nepal Yu Hong inked a Memorandum of Understanding on the framework agreement on the OBOR.

The growing Chinese interest in Nepal was also evident with the establishment of Hongshi Shivam Cement Company, set up with USD 360 million Chinese investment in South–West Nepal, with initial daily production capacity of 6,000 tonnes.

It was the year of elections in Nepal.

After 20 years, Nepalese voted in three phased elections to the local bodies, which was followed by elections for provincial assemblies and the lower house of Parliament.

In parliament elections held recently, a Left alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre won 116 out of 165 seats under the first-past-the-post system and is likely to form a Left government under former prime minister K P Sharma Oli, who is considered close to China.

“We seek cooperation and help from both India and China for our development, but we will not tolerate any interference in our affairs, from either side,” said CPN-UML politburo member Bhim Rawal, who has been elected to the Parliament.

The elections are said to be a step forward in cementing the democracy and providing political stability to Nepal, which has seen 10 prime ministers in as many years.

Prime Minister Modi congratulated Oli, Deuba and Prachanda on the successful conduct of elections.

Also this year, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, who had completed his three and a half year term in Nepal, handed over the charge to Manjeev Singh Puri.

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