Nepal seeks to strengthen ties with old and dependable friend India
Nepal seeks to strengthen ties with old and dependable friend India

Photo Credit: IANS


New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) The bilateral ties between India and Nepal are normalising after a short period of sluggishness and misunderstandings. There are visible signals that the relations are set to improve. During his upcoming visit to India, Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is seeking to strengthen ties with India in the areas of trade, investment, connectivity and healthcare. But the main feature would be the launch of cross border railway project that is funded by India.

There is likely to be an announcement of another railway line connecting an Indian town with Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu. This development assumes great significance for bilateral relations in the wake of Nepal refusing China's offer to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

New Delhi is wary of the inroads China has been making in Nepal, that poses challenges to its security and leadership position in the Indian subcontinent. During the recent visit to Nepal by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, both countries signed and exchanged nine agreements. But none of them was related to the BRI.

It was a big disappointment for China since the BRI was the top priority for Wang Yi's trip. Nepal expressed concerns over the stringent terms such as contracts reserved exclusively for Chinese firms and higher interest rates for the BRI loans.

Sri Lanka is a classic example for Nepal to gauge how failure to repay loans and to abide by the BRI conditions can cause the financial crisis and even loss of sovereignty. On other hand, loans from India came without strings. India is expected to bear the entire cost of the new railway line too.

India and Nepal have close relations that are characterised by age-old historic and cultural ties. And India has been the biggest supplier of essential commodities to Nepal, and many Nepalese live in India to earn livelihood.

Even during natural disasters like earthquakes, India was the first responder and ensured every possible assistance. India donated 1 million Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal when the country was reeling under the pandemic and the number of new cases was rising at an alarming rate.

India donated essential medical equipment and medicines as well as ambulances and ventilators to Nepal after Covid-19 gripped the Himalayan country. When the second wave of Covid-19 hit Nepal in mid-2021, only India came to its rescue. It was the only country to send liquid oxygen to Nepal despite the huge domestic demand.

The help in times of need earned India the goodwill of the Nepalese people. Thanking India for providing vaccines "at a critical time", the then Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said "Nepal appreciates this gesture from a friendly neighbour."

Average Nepali people too thanked India and hoped for a strong friendship. Bhisma Raj Siwakoti said: "Highly appreciated this generosity from our southern Neighbour. This truly manifested "Neighbour First" policy of India. Now India has promised Nepal to support it in the post-Covid-19 recovery.

Amid the Ukraine invasion, India has evacuated the stranded Nepalese. At least six Nepali citizens were brought by India from different Ukrainian cities under Operation Ganga. Deuba thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi "for the assistance in repatriating Nepali nationals".

In 2021, India had evacuated several Nepali people from Afghanistan as well. Amid the fog of misunderstanding, Nepal realised India is its true dependable friend. There have been sustained efforts by Nepal to improve ties with India for the past year. It got momentum after Deuba became the Prime Minister in July 2021.

During his visit to India in November, Nepal's Army Chief General Prabhu Ram Sharma was conferred with the title of honorary 'General of Indian Army' by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind.

Now the visit by Deuba, will involve a visit to Varanasi -- a holy Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage city and the parliamentary constituency represented by Indian Prime Minister Modi. Varanasi is the common point for the religious connection between both countries' Hindu and Buddhist communities. Deuba's visit will strengthen the ties between the political leaderships, as well as reinforce the cultural bond between the people of the two countries.

"The upcoming visit will provide an opportunity to the two sides to review this wide ranging cooperative partnership and to progress it further for the benefit of the two peoples," said Indian External Affairs Ministry.



Update: 31-March-2022