New beginning for India and Nepal: The Statesman

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) and Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli at the inauguration of India-Nepal petroleum products pipeline and the Integrated Check Post, at Hyderabad house, in New Delhi on April 7, 2018.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) and Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli at the inauguration of India-Nepal petroleum products pipeline and the Integrated Check Post, at Hyderabad house, in New Delhi on April 7, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial, the paper highlights the significance of the visit of Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli to India.

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With the change at the helm in Nepal, the forward movement in relations with India is profoundly significant not the least in the context of the border blockade by an ethnic segment two years ago.

It was in the fitness of things, therefore, that the pronounced emphasis during the Nepal Prime Minister, Mr K.P. Sharma Oli's visit to India was on connectivity by rail and river to the landlocked Himalayan country that was devastated by an earthquake two summers ago.

Clearly, both Prime Minister Modi and his visiting counterpart were anxious to move on - from the bitterness during the blockade and most particularly the fact that Nepal was veering towards China as a more dependable neighbour.

It would be pertinent to recall that Oli wasn't exactly friendly towards India during his earlier stint as Nepal's Prime Minister, preferring to deal with the government in Beijing instead.

To the extent that his government had refused to accept the relief package from India in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The change in stance between the neighbours - SAARC members both - is to be welcomed.

The trend was manifest during the tenure of Oli's predecessor, Prachanda's premiership; it is a salutary development that the process has now been carried forward.

 

The recent praxis in India's relations with Bangladesh - streamlined connectivity by train and vessels - is palpably being given a try in Delhi's redefined dealings with Kathmandu. It thus comes about that the agreement Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale calls a "game-changer" envisages a rail link between Raxaul in Bihar to Kathmandu and an inland waterway for the movement of cargo.

The 135-day blockade (beginning September 2015) over Madhesi sub-regional jingoism had crippled the Raxaul-Birganj checkpost which handles 70 per cent of supplies from India to Nepal.

With the movement of food, fuel and medicines thus dislocated, it was a particularly bitter phase in bilateral relations. Both Modi and Oli have made it pretty obvious that they are now anxious to forge a "forward-looking" relationship by putting in place more linkages between the two countries.

Hence the hope articulated by India's ambassador to Nepal, Manjeev Singh Puri, that the proposed rail and link infrastructure will remove the feeling among the Nepalese that their country is landlocked - "This will link Nepal to the sea through the riverine network."

No less crucially, it needs to be underlined that Oli has chosen India as his first port of call after taking over as Prime Minister the second time around.

The economic significance of the visit is considerable, with the Nepal PM assuring India's corporate class that its "investments would be protected". The visit has lent an impetus to the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) initiative on vehicular movement.

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