Redefining Nepal-India relations in 21 century : The real new normal

By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 31 July 2018) – India and China should forge strategic partnership resolving their conflicting issues peacefully. India should think out of US’s Asia pivot, now Trump’s Post Pivot Strategy. And, China should abandon the policy of encirclement of India or the ‘String of Pearls’.

 

Chair of the session, Former Minister and Standing Committee Member Ganesh Shah

My fellow panelists from Nepal and India

Ladies and gentleman

It’s my great pleasure to be here among st you – the eminent personalities from Nepal and India. Thank you AIDIA and Nehru Museum for jointly hosting this think tank conference.

Without any further delay I want to directly get into the given title – redefining Nepal-India relations in 21 century. The title is very much relevant at a time when both Nepal and India have tremendously improved the relations.

Neighborhood reality

It is a neighborhood reality that we often witness intermittent glitches in Nepal-India relations. It is a fact that we have witnessed difficult times in our relations. We have gone through the cycles of ups and downs; highs and lows in bilateral relations.

This is the moment we both the countries have restored the normal realations leaving aside the misunderstandings.

It is natural that Nepal has  certain expectations from India as a large neighbour and a country with rising global stature in many ways.

I quote Prime Minister Oli here . ‘Talking about India, our foreign policy objective is to strengthen the foundation of relations, but not to weaken it; objective is to expand and consolidate relations, but not to limit the scope or unravel it; and objective is to bring our relations to the next level, but not to slide back. Our objective is clear. Our intention is pure. Our determination is strong. And, our efforts will be robust.’ (India Foundation, New Delhi,April 7, 2018).

 India and Nepal : Existing position 

Nepal and India are two countries of different size, populations, and level of economic development. And our ambition is different, so is our strength. India is aspiring to be a global power, both politically and economically. Nepal’s ambition is to be a prosperous place.

India has become the 6th largest economy pushing France into 7th, According to the updated report of World Bank 2017.  India has been recognized as a power by the p-5 in 2010 and has been maintaining good relations with all the power nations. PM Modi’s great success is of course the building strategic partnership with the power nations.

After the promulgation of constitution in 20 Sept. 2015 and the three tiers of election including of federal parliament, Nepal has embarked a new journey of economic development and prosperity.

Nepal has a stable government,  strong and visionary Prime Minister, who has not only  shown the dreams but striving to transform the dreams into reality.

Global Context : power shifting to Asia

  1. The global power equation is gradually shifting to east from the west, from America and Europe to Asia (that means obviously shifting to our neighborhood- China and India.

Asia’s centrality in today’s global stage has been affirmed by the fascinating combination of economics, demography and its value system.

Having possessed a third of the Earth’s landmass and almost two third of the world population, mostly young and energetic, Asia’s renaissance has become irresistible and irreversible.

  1. China and India’s sustained economic growth fuels their increasing geopolitical and military influence.
  2. India and China relations have based on 4Cs – Cooperation on trade (Though both the nationa couldn’t meet the set target of 100 billion in 2015, now 84.44 billion dollar in 2017), Coordination on Asian challenges- such as climate change, Confrontation\Contradiction on border, Competition on politics and neighbors.
  3. Despite their developmental similarities, India and China have competing priorities on global issues.

 

Recommendations

  1. India and China should first realize that the 21 century is Asian century. Then both the power should ready to lead the contemporary global political and diplomatic order.
  2. Both India and China must form a common position on non proliferation system, Asian security, South Asian regional development and stability.
  3. The two rising powers should come to agree on matters relating to the international economic system, energy security and the environment.
  4. India and China should forge strategic partnership peacefully resolving the conflicting issues. I think India should think out of US’s Asia pivot, now Trump’s Post Pivot Strategy. And China should abandon the policy of encirclement of India or ‘String of Pearls’.

 

Redefine Nepal-India relations

  1. Review the overall policy

Both India and Nepal should review their policy at a time when there has been tremendous change in the global diplomatic order.

And the significant changes have taken place in Nepal and India too.

EGP has completed this daunting task.

  1. Policy of Non- interference

India should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal. India should stop meddling in Nepal’s domestic affairs.

India’s7-point amendment proposal to Nepal’s constitution and undeclared blockade was the blatant act of interference in the domestic affairs of Nepal.  After the election, India realized that it did blunder in Nepal.

Both the Prime Ministers have agreed to respect each other’s independence, sovereignity, territorial integrity. Both the prime Ministers have brought the bilateral relations in newer height by executing the relations of mutual respect and mutual benefit.

  1. End of ‘Special Relationship’

Diplomatically, ‘special relationship’ between two sovereign nations in such a geopolitical location doesn’t exist. But it was said after the signing of 1950 treaty.  Nepal has been long denied this relationship between two sovereign nations.

The good news is that in the visit of PM Oli to India and Modi to Nepal, the much -flaunted terminology was neve uttered. It was an end of an era of special relationship.

  1. Relations of ‘Sovereign Fraternity’

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli often delivers – ‘Nepal wants sovereign and friendly relations with India. PM oli said in India foundation – ‘Nepal wants to develop a relationship with India and our neighbours (read China and Nepal) in line with the changing times in this 21st century’. T

That is the relations of Sovereign Fraternity. The Oli and Modi visits were indeed significant as it sought to repair the serious rupture in the relations between the two neighbours since 2015.

  1. Gurjal doctrine or Non-Reciprocity

Even though, It is purely a domestic issue of India but Nepal like neighbours recollect the Gujral Doctrine of non-reciprocity to small neighbours.

The Nehru doctrine of ‘sphere of influence’ on Nepal and other south Asian nations have been seriously quetioned and denied. (At a time when Donald Trump has employed the America first policy, the policy of Give and Take with other sovereign nations, it is not easy for India but India should have its own policy).

  1. High level political Relations & Exchanges

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli visited India and Prime Minister Modi reciprocated after a month. Modi’s three telephonic conversation after the election result, Shusma Swaraj’s Nepal visit, PM Oli visit to India and PM Modi visit to Nepal are exemplery. Such a trend should be continued.

  1. Address of the Genuine Concerns

Nepal should address the genuine interest\concern of India. (Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been repeatedly said that Nepal has understood the genuine concerns of India and China and these concerns would be rightly addressed.

Prime Minister Oli has said that Nepal’s land would not allowed to use against India and China.

  1. Trilateral partnership on development

As India and China agreed to launch the joint projects in Afghanistan from the informal Uhan summit held in mid China on (26-27 april 2018) this model can be followed in Nepal. Nepal has been openly urging both the neighbours to jointly work in Nepal’s development, this can be extended in Nepal too.

  1. Replacement of 1950 treaty

The EPG (Eminent Persons’ Group) has prepared a final joint report on 1950 treaty and other issues assigned. There has been the breakthrough that EPG with the consensus ready to replace the old 1950 treaty with the new one with embracing the changed situation.

  1. Land-locked to Land-linked

Nepal government has rightly employed a new language –  Nepal is not Lank-locked, it is land-linked. Nepal is not India locked, it is open to both India and China.

  1. Bridging Trade imbalance

This is the most important area of promoting bilateral relations. India’s relaxations on taxes of the goods to Nepal and liberal trade policy to Nepal is needed.

India’s Course correction

  1. India postponed the agenda of constitution amendment

India’s attempt to reach out to Oli had been a serious exercise towards course correction in its neighborhood approach.

After the failed neighbour first policy of Prime Minister Modi, he reviewed, revoked the first neighborhood policy and replaced that with the new neighborhood policy.

The visit of Shusma Swaraj to Nepal, the three calls of Modi to Oli, Oli visit, Rajnath singh received Oli at the airport and PM Modi’s visit are the manifestation of new normal relationship.

A long-pending proposal on linking Kathmandu with Raxaul through an electric rail track was inked and a new link, what Modi referred to as “Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) with the sagar (Indian Ocean)” through waterways was also promised.

Oli also had a somewhat unscheduled, hour-long one-on-one discussions with Modi prior to official delegation-level talks.

Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

Nepal has signed it, India seems reluctant to be the part of BRI. BRI can never be the agenda of Nepal and India.

China has been generously supporting Nepal for  infrastructure development Under the RBI. India should not have any reservation on it.

Redefine foreign policy

As Henry Kissinger rightly puts it, in foreign policy, there are no permanent enemies or friends but only permanent interests.

Nepal has permanent interest. India has permanent interests. How both the country can protect their interest without harming each other is the way for the defining relations in the 21 century.

  • This is the note presented in Nepal-India Think Tank Conferences held in Kathmandu on 31 July 2018. 

 

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