Thursday 03 December 2020, 10:00 PM
Military diplomacy to tide over India-Nepal ties
By Rahul Kumar | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 11/3/2020 3:52:48 PM
Military diplomacy to tide over India-Nepal ties

New Delhi: Indian Army chief General M.M. Naravane will be in Kathmandu on Wednesday, doing diplomacy with leaders of the Himalayan nation sandwiched between giants India and China. He will pick up the threads that Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel wove on his day-long visit to the Nepali capital on October 21.

Indian diplomacy is witnessing interesting days with the intelligence and defence wings working on the beat that traditionally belongs to the Ministry of External Affairs. For India these are unusual times and, therefore, call for unusual methods.

Goel's rather conspicuous visit to Nepal, where he met Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli for over two hours besides senior leaders, was the first face-to-face high-level meeting between the two countries this year. The Indian delegation had senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office as well as the Ministry of External Affairs. The RAW chief's visit helped open up the door for the two nations to put the brakes on deteriorating bilateral relations and start afresh.

Nepali Prime Minister Oli's phone call to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on India's Independence Day, coupled with persistent back channel diplomacy, has helped in breaking the stalemate in bilateral relations.

Now, Gen Naravane's three-day visit is expected to improve India-Nepal ties as the armies of the two nations enjoy close ties. He will be conferred the honorary title of Commander of the Nepal Army by President Bidya Devi Bhandari. This is a reciprocal gesture in which the armies of both nations honor each other. After his investiture ceremony, Gen Naravane will call on Oli who holds the charge of the Ministry of Defence.

Gen Naravane will also meet up with his counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa as well as other senior defence officials to boost defence ties. Owing to Nepal's domestic politics, many had questioned the wisdom of Nepali Gorkha soldiers serving in the Indian Army. Irritants like these too have to be discussed and closed.

His visit will help smoothen the traditional but recently-frayed relations. Nepal is also likely to ask India to take up the Pancheswar multi-purpose project besides other hydro-power projects. India is also likely to take up discussions on investing more into infrastructure projects like bridges and roads in remote regions in Nepal. Some of these are areas where China has already invested heavily in the Himalayan country becoming the largest, almost monopolistic, lender to Nepal.

India is also likely to discuss opening up more border points for trade to enable better movement of goods-a subject that helps Nepal economy with immediate effect. Regarding the border, the two countries are also likely to hold a meeting of the Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee to permanently resolve the border dispute and ensure complete demarcation of the border.

Owing to Chinese influence and outreach to a number of South Asian countries, India's relations slipped considerably with immediate neighbours this year. However, the Modi government has made efforts to stop the falling bilateral relations with Bangladesh and has also improved ties considerably with Maldives, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Indo-Nepal relations nose-dived earlier this year after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 80-km border road from Uttaranchal in India to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet. An irked Nepal claimed that the road lay in Kalapani, Nepalese territory. As Nepal proceeded to revise its maps showing the area in Nepal and debated the issue in its parliament, relations deteriorated fast. India hit back saying that Nepal was acting on China's behest.

Bilateral relations hurtled downhill fast after the Oli government listed more disputed areas. India kept pointing fingers at China for the tear in Indo-Nepal relations. India felt Oli, also the leader of the communist party, was pushing Nepal into Chinese's arms owing to their common communist affiliation. However, with China applying its expansionist designs to Nepal by slicing off border areas in Humla, and also taking over Rui village in the Gorkha district, it just might have dawned on Nepal that its new-found friend was not entirely trustworthy.

With India too facing the same adverse situation of salami-slicing tactics by China on its Ladakh border, it has been a realization for both countries that relations had to be prevented from going down further.


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