By Yubaraj Ghimire –The replacement of an envoy is generally a routine administrative exercise and may not mean any drastic policy review towards the host country. However, Ambassador Ranjit Rae’s replacement Manjeev Singh Puri, India’s 24th ambassador to Nepal, has fueled speculation already. An Indian Ambassador wields considerable clout in Nepal but of late that has visibly cost India the trust and respect of its neighbour. India’s former foreign secretary Jagat Mehta had once said that Indian ambassadors in Nepal often behave like the ‘viceroy’.
Puri’s test begins from the day he arrives; he will be judged by how differently he behaves to his predecessors, beginning with Shyam Saran who left Kathmandu to take over as India’s Foreign Secretary in October 2004, and then played a central role in bringing the Maoists centre stage in Nepali politics while promoting regionalism in Madhes. Political instability has since remained deeply institutionalized in Nepal.
Relations between India and Nepal nosedived after India launched a five month long blockade from September 2015 in solidarity with the protest by Madhesi group against the newly promulgated Constitution. The Morcha and its activities are once again in the news, following a police shoot out after its supporters allegedly resisted and disturbed a rally by the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, last Monday in Saptari district (Madhes).
The Morcha has threatened to withdraw support from the government and launch protest programme across the country.
Ambassador Puri will faces challenges and opportunities in equal measure. He will be acutely aware of how relations between the neighbours have developed over the last decade. At the same time, as someone not identified with the group that authored the ‘New Nepal Policy’, he will be able to objectively review what needs to be done now.
Courtesy : The Indian Express, 10 March 2017