Tuesday, April 23, 2024

"It is India's responsibility to support Nepal which is passing through economic crisis"

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Dr. Nihar Nayak is an expert commentator on Nepal-India relationship. Affiliated with The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, he has been frequently writing about the bilateral ties and their ramifications. Bindesh Dahal of Lokantar caught up with Dr. Nayak at the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi during the banquet organized on Wednesday to welcome Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" who is in four-day state visit to India. Excerpts:

Did you like the body language of PM Prachanda while he was making the address?

I personally believe that he could have switched to English language after commencing the speech in Nepali. The Nepali embassy has invited a large number of people who cannot follow Nepali langauge. He could have code switched in his later part of speech or there could have been an interpreter facility as well.

What are the major takeaways of PM Prachanda's state visit to India?

This is an extremely important visit if you see the timing. It is taking place when the world is facing different crises. The entire supply chain is affected due to Ukraine crisis. Many energy-dependent countries like Nepal are hugely impacted due to this crisis. In addition to this, Nepal is facing a serious economic crisis in particularly the post-pandemic period.

Because of these two important events, Nepal needs some amount of support from India. That support may be in form of development projects or financial packages or even one or two infrastructure projects. That may help Nepal overcome its economic as well as energy challenges. This visit provides a good opportunity for PM Prachanda to discuss about Nepal's current economic crisis as well as energy situation. The two leaders can discuss all these issues in their meeting.

At this period, Nepal needs some amount for support from India. Both are equal partners but currently India is better placed than Nepal in energy and economic situation. It is a responsibility and obligation for a neighboring country to support Nepal when it is passing through a crisis.

I think we should take this visit in a positive way. I would not unnecessarily misinterpret the protocol offered by India to PM Prachanda that some Nepali media are talking about. The protocol was as per instructions of the Ministry of External Affairs. Earlier also, state ministers have received high-level delegations. These are not the major issues.

Any visit has its own significance. Such visits give both the leaders opportunities to sit together and discuss about certain issues in the bilateral relationship.    

Is there mutual trust between Nepal and India at the top political level?

High-level visits in the last six years reflects the mutual trust. Six PMs of Nepal have visited Nepal in the last six years. PM Narendra Modi has visited Nepal five times in nine years. This reflects mutual trust and friendship between two countries. Despite assymetries, Nepal comes as India's topmost priority in "neighborhood first" policy. During his last visit to Lumbini, PM Modi and Nepal's then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba especially emphasized on energy cooperation, transmission lines and infrastructure projects. This is an opportunity for both the PMs to discuss about how to strengthen the bilateral relationship and also address the gap in bilateral ties.

PM Prachanda is saying publicly that India will permit air routes for Nepal's international airports.

I think some amount of flexibility will be shown by India for the air route although not about all the routes demanded by Nepal. The negotiations are in advanced state. If it doesn't happen in this visit, I am sure some positive things will come out in the next six months.

Nepal always talks about Eminent Persons' Group (EPG) report but India is indiferent to it. What is your take?

I believe that EPG report should be submitted as it was agreed in 2016. The members are ready to submit the report to the PM of India. I think the PM should formally take the report.

India has displayed the posters welcoming daura-suruwal clad PM Prachanda in the roads of Delhi. Does Prachanda's new attire have any cultural and political meaning?

This is not the first time PM Prachanda has been wearing daura-suruwal. He did it when he took oath of office last time. I don't think it has a big meaning but it is a good gesture. Even PM Modi appears in national and regional attires when he visits different places. Nepali is one of our constitutional languages. More than six million Nepali people live in India. We have a huge cultural understanding. Any kind of dress reflecting nationality is good.

Published on 1 June 2023

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