Prime Minister of Nepal, Shri K.P. Oli will be on his maiden visit to India on April 6-8, where he will be meeting the Indian leaderships in Delhi. He might be travelling to Uttarakhand for visiting G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology.
The return of Shri K.P. Oli as the Prime Minister of Nepal has not been surprising for India, as he is a veteran politician. During his last tenure, his approach of balancing Nepal’s two larger neighbours drew a picture that he wanted to forge stronger relations with its northern neighbour, to counter India. But looking at Nepal’s geo-strategic position, while turning back the pages of Nepal’s political history, monarchs and political leaders of the past have been using this balancing act for a long time. Prime Minister Oli has clearly stated that he does not want to play the India or China card and there is no question of favouring one country over the other. He mentioned that the misunderstandings of the past in between India and Nepal has been resolved and should be forgotten.
Prime Minister Oli’s slated visit was proposed to be in the month of July after the publication of the final review result of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) who has been tasked to review and recommend changes in the 1950 India Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty. But this proposed visit has been preponed.
The main focus of the visit as per PM Oli’s speech in the Nepali parliament will be on the implementation of the past agreements signed between Nepal and India rather than signing new agreements. He categorically mentioned that he will not do anything against the national interest or let down the nation. It was mentioned that issues of agriculture, water route and rail way will be discussed with the Indian leaders along with tourism, education and health sector related issues. He wants to redefine India Nepal relations, pushing behind the strains that were created in between India and Nepal during his first Prime Ministership.
Nepali traders are facing obstacles as they have faced hurdles getting clearance for their fuel tankers in the border points and the rules for getting clearance for the goods carrier trucks remain very rigid. Nepali traders continue to face hardships due to India’s demonetisation policy. Prime Minister Oli intends to take these issues up with his Indian counterpart.
Though before he took office, post elections, Indian External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj had travelled to Kathmandu and had congratulated Prime Minister Oli. Nonetheless, after becoming the Prime Minister, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi arrived on an unscheduled visit to congratulate Prime Minister Oli. During the visit, both leaders stressed on reviving SAARC, initiating the Summits once again. It is expected that during this visit, PM Oli will put revival of the SAARC mechanism in the discussion agenda. PM Oli has also stressed that he would want to discuss on cross-border security and terrorism.
India and Nepal has not been able to develop economic partnership and has seen various hurdles and obstacles in such partnerships. Prime Minister Oli has shown his interest to interact with the business communities in Delhi to discuss methods for enhancing production as well as boosting exports and investment.
As portrayed in the Nepali media regarding the forthcoming visit, Nepal expects a significant economic assistance from India. It has been cited that in a recent speech given by the Finance Minister of Nepal, its reserves are running low while conducting continuous elections along with carrying out the rehabilitation programme. The media has portrayed that there might be some new agreements/deal like the ‘Bulk Cargo Transit Deal’, where India has shown interest in. It can be noted here that the exports and imports that take place through the ports of Kolkata, Vishakhapatnam or Haldia, uses the Birgunj Check post of Nepal for transit of trade and commodities. The proposal is to increase the number of check posts, including Birat Nagar, Bherwa and Nepal Gunj, which would not only increase the volume of exports and imports but also facilitate its easy passage.
There has also been discussion on rail connectivity, from Kathmandu to Delhi and Kathmandu to Kolkata. In February 2017, India had announced this connectivity project at Nepal Investment Summit. There is a chance of the inauguration of Birganj Raxaul Integrated Check Post. The foundation stone for this project was laid during 2011. In the new project 115 bigha land will be extended for the present check post which would allow larger traffic movement and facilitate trade and people on both sides of the border.
There is also chance of the inauguration of a joint hydro-electric project, Arun III. The inauguration of this project was proposed to be done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year in the month of December which was later postponed.
Looking at the number of sectors that PM Oli has the opportunity of interacting in, without touching on any contentious issue of the past, there is a visible effort that is positively put ahead by the Nepali leadership for improving relations. One should note that after a long time, in Nepal’s modern political history, PM Oli won the elections with an electoral mandate having the majority behind him. Representing a stable government, he is capable of rebuilding India Nepal relations, for maximizing the opportunities that can be explored and cultivated on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect.