By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 29 October 2020) – Director of the Indian Foreign Intelligence Agency – Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), Samanta Kumar Goel’s short visit to Nepal has created furor in Nepali political sector. He paid courtesy call on Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on 21 October and returned to New Delhi the next morning. What was transpired in the meeting is unsurprisingly unknown except the exchanges of diplomatic understanding on the outstanding bilateral issues.
Prime Minister’s Press Advisor Surya Thapa, as does at the end of other scheduled meetings, issued press note sincerely informing people about the Goel’s courtesy call on Prime Minister. According to his note, the RAW chief expressed commitment to keep Nepal-India friendly relations intact, resolve existing issues by means of dialogue and further advance bilateral cooperation. Nepal government didn’t hide the meetings. It was, however, anticipated circulating the fabricated reports with the conspiracy angle.
Some Indian media outlets have reported that Goel also met chairman of main opposition Nepali Congress and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Madhesi leader Mahantha Thakur. He also held meetings with the chiefs of Nepali security agencies including Chief of Nepal Army. He had landed in Kathmandu with nine other officials comprising the senior officials of the Office of Prime Minister of India and Ministry of External Affairs.
The RAW is the part of the PMO and it functions under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It directly reports to PM and receives directives from PM. RAW is closely involved in all overseas initiatives by the PMO. Its primary functions include gathering information about foreign intelligence, counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation, advising Indian policy makers and advancing India’s foreign strategic interests.
Now, the scene and situation is clear that he had visited Nepal as an envoy of Prime Minister Modi with an aim to resolve the outstanding bilateral issues including the boundary dispute. The counterpart agency of RAW in Nepal is National Investigation Department (NID), which is now under the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM). NID directly works under the Prime Minister and receives direction from the Prime Minister.
Therefore, Goel’s visit was not a secret and his meetings with Prime Minister was planned to mend the ties between the two countries strained after Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategic road to Manasarovar via Nepal’ Lipulek pass. Goel’s visit was arranged by NID.
Nepal-India relation is now at the lowest ebb despite the resumption of high-level contacts on different occasions at certain intervals. Prime Minister Oli and Prime Minister Modi have been talking over phone and maintaining formal relations, but substantive move is yet to be initiated. India has been displaying apathy to Nepal’s formal request to hold secretary-level talks on boundary issues. Nepal has requested India to end the cartographic aggression by presenting the historical documents, maps and treaties at the negotiating table.
All the historical documents have shown that areas of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek belong to Nepal, which was encroached and controlled by India since 1962 . Lately, it seems both the sides have been preparing to hold secretary-level talks focusing on the disputed territory and the visit of Goel might be helpful towards setting the tone. The visit also set the stage for the visit of Indian army chief, Manoj Mukunda Naravane, who is arriving in Nepal on 4 November, mainly to be conferred the title of honorary general of Nepal army. As per a longstanding tradition, chiefs of the armies of both the countries are conferred with the honorary titles.
Naravane was in controversy when he undermined the Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity saying that Nepal was objecting to India’s opening a road link via Lipulek at the behest of China. Later, he tried to correct his statement. Therefore, Goel took stock of the situation to fully make the army chief visit successful without any hindrance. It can be said that Goel was deputed to Nepal on quasi-diplomatic assignment. Thus, it is normal, nothing out of the ordinary.
The courtesy call of RAW chief on PM Oli has been interpreted as undiplomatic and a move that undermines the Nepali sovereignty. But it is not so. The courtesy call on head of the government of host country is a diplomatic practice. It is completely insincere to blame Prime Minister Oli and his proven nationalism just because he was met by the RAW Chief. Indian media have reported about the meeting quoting the sources that India will not allow interruption in the friendly bilateral relations with Nepal and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue.
Oli’s nationalism is not based on shallow slogan and rhetoric, it has been tested time and again. In his first tenure as Prime Minister and second innings till now, Oli has done nothing wrong to be questioned on nationalism. The fight against Indian blockade and agreement of the Transport and Transit with China are just two examples of Oli’s unwavering commitment to national interest and the people’s broader wellbeing. There is a long list of his patriotic deeds.
The diplomatic solutions of any issues between the two countries can be sought through different channels at different levels. Nepal’s priority this time is to get back the lost territories. For this to happen, both the countries should sit for dialogue. It’s plain as day that PM Oli has never compromised national interest and sovereignty while dealing with neighbours and international community.
This article first appeared in The Rising Nepal