Ties Built On Goodwill
President Bidya Devi Bhandari has stressed the consolidated ties between Nepal and India based on sovereign equality, mutual respect, shared benefits and clear understanding of each other’s aspirations. She also laid equal emphasis on the need for enhancing mutual goodwill, trust and confidence so the two neighbours can make forward strides together to achieve the common goal of progress and prosperity. Delivering her meaningful remarks during a state banquet hosted in her honour by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi the other day, the President expressed her hope that Nepal-India relations would be consolidated further and the areas of cooperation expanded in the days to come. The presidential remarks are very contextual at a time when the two nations have left behind a chapter of soured relations a year ago and moved forward with exchanges of visits at the high level of governments. India had halted the transportation of vital supplies to Nepal including petroleum fuels, medicines and food in an unofficial embargo just after the promulgation of the new constitution in Nepal in 2015. The crux of the difference was that the political parties based in the Terai region opposed some provisions of the constitution and expressed their discontent by blocking highways. Though this tactic of protest was very unpopular at grassroots and business communities both in Nepal and India, the Indian government supported it imposing an undeclared blockade. It was after the internationalisation of the issue and open opposition of the affected masses on both sides of the border that the highway blockade was lifted.
Given the special proximity of Nepal and India at the cultural, trade, social and political level, bad politics trying to put a dent on the mutual intimacy cannot survive and sustain. This is the hard lesson learned through history. India should respect Nepal’s independence and should not try to take advantage of its landlocked geographical situation. Political moves have their economic and humanitarian consequences as seen a year ago. But these incidences have taught Nepal and India important lessons to end differences and build trust. It is time to build mutual confidence and expand the sphere of cooperation as emphasised by the President. It is high time a pragmatic model of friendship and cooperation was found that works in the best interests of both the neighbours. Nepal is moving ahead with massive projects of reconstruction in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of April 2015. Assistance of neighbours and well wishes are important in this regard. Indian help can be very useful in terms of finance, manpower, expertise and the supply of construction materials. But some issues like the election boycott of the Madhes-based parties and the old tactics of highway blockade and traffic obstruction linger on. India should play a creative role by persuading the Madhesi parties to take part in the essential democratic exercise and shirk the unpopular tactics. As the government is ready to address the genuine demands of any regions and communities, making demands should not amount to the obstruction of constitution implementation and undermining the very ethos of the supreme national document. In this context, the ongoing visit and the remarks the President made in New Delhi are expected not only to cement the ties between the two nation but also help resolve the differences between the ruling and Madhes-based parties in the eve of local election.