What to make of Jaishankar’s visit to Nepal
Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and India’s External Affairs Minister Subramanyam Jaishankar co-chaired the fifth meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission in Kathmandu on 21-22 August 2019. Both the counterparts have discussed several issues surrounding Nepal-India bilateral relations.
The meeting has witnessed the signing of the memorandum of understanding on food safety between the Department of Food technology and Quality Control of Nepal and Food Safety and Standard Authority of India. Coinciding with the occasion, the government of India also handed over a cheque of 2.45 billion rupees to the Nepal Government for the post-earthquake housing reconstruction. Similarly, cheque of 1.29 billion rupees also was handed over to Nepal towards strengthening road infrastructure in the Terai region of Nepal.
Dr. Jaishankar’s visit is the first high-level visit to Nepal after Narendra Modi assumed office for the second term. Amidst and aftermath the meeting of the commission, three issues have been in people’s mind to discuss. First, Co-chair of Nepal Communist Party, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, reportedly lied to people of Nepal that he did not meet Dr. Jaishankar in Kathmandu. Just after his statement, a video got viral on social media where he was seen in Baluwatar with Dr. Jaishankar.
Why did Dahal utter such a lie? If he wants to follow the path of pseudo-nationalism forwarded by KP Sharma Oli during the time of constitution promulgation then this jingoistic step can derail Nepal-India relationship instead of providing any political mileage. Nepali people are aware about the characteristic of their political leaders. In this regard, a conclave between Dr. Jaishankar and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli cleared many things. PM Oli was once super-vocal against India. His party won the last elections on anti-Indian plank and abusing India continued afterwards as well.
Similarly, in the aftermath of visit of Dr. Jaishankar, it is being debated and discussed in Nepal that India seeks Nepal’s support into the issue of Jammu and Kashmir [J&K]. It is said that in diplomacy literal interpretation does not exist. One should be sharp to ‘read between the lines’. Just after the completion of Dr. Jaisankar’s visit to Bangladesh, that country issued a statement and cleared its stance on J&K issue. India has scrapped Article 370 that gave special status to J&K. Seeking international endorsement even in internal affairs is the need of globalization. Notwithstanding, Nepal should have to clear its stand on Kashmir itself. No official statement has been issued yet over J&K from Nepal’s authorities concerned. Is it to appease Pakistan and China? If this is the intention, there is no meaning of ‘Roti Beti Ko Sambandh’ (bread and bride relationship) with India.
We should understand that since the independence of India in 1947, as per the terms of the Britain-India-Nepal’s tripartite agreement, six Gorkha regiments, formerly part of the British Indian Army, have been serving in the Indian Army. The troops are mainly ethnic Nepali people. After the revocation of provisions of Article 370, those families of Gorkha regiment staying in Kashmir had celebrated the decision of Government of India and have been pinning hope with the government that their children would now get government jobs, seats in professionals colleges and they would also buy land to live separately within the valley. Nepal should compare India with Pakistan and China on the basis of proximity with these countries.
Similarly, the day after Dr. Jaishankar departed for India, few Nepali newspapers published a report that Prime Minister of India, Narendra Damodar Das Modi, would come Nepal on its constitution day. If this is true, it carries big meaning for Nepal. Modi is highly criticized for allegedly not accepting the constitution of Nepal as yet. But the supposed visit of Modi to Nepal would falsify the narrative that he has grievances with the Constitution of Nepal. Meantime, Modi’s visit on constitution day would also be meaningful as it would convey the message that India is with Nepal whole heartedly and Nepal should also act accordingly.
Nepal must adopt ‘circumstantial and subjective’ approach of diplomacy and it should not keep treading cautiously rather seek for optimum benefit from other countries for its economic prosperity. Since Nepal’s trade is hugely dependent on India, we should keep trying to make it balanced by expediting our trade capacity.
The writer is a human rights activist and freelancer.