Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that the visit of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to Nepal has taken Nepal-India bilateral relations to newer heights. Modi’s reciprocal visit follows Oli’s visit to New Delhi recently that was widely seen as an opportunity to start a new phase of goodwill, friendship and cooperation after the Indian economic blockade of 2015. This was also PM Oli’s first foreign visit after he assumed the top executive post of the nation following the historic elections. These recent high level visits between the two immediate neighbours have made a milestone not only to deepen the goodwill bond but also to expedite economic cooperation in the infrastructure building. New areas of cooperation, notably the railways connectivity and construction of inland waterways infrastructure, have got mention during these visits. Analysts say that Indian initiative on this sector is prompted by China’s readiness to offer help for infrastructure construction in Nepal but we should not forget the fact that Nepal and India are bound by special geo-political reality that cannot be compared with any other country. The existing geopolitics dictates Nepal to foster equally important and neutral ties with both the southern and northern immediate neighbours. There is no question of one being more or less important than the other. Keeping balanced friendly relations with both the neighbours with national interests on top priority is the cornerstone of Nepal’s foreign policy. Most important lesson learned from the bitter episode of 2015 is that Nepal and India cannot underestimate the intimacy existing at the people’s level.
Nepal-India diplomatic interaction has only intensified after the relations between the two countries experienced the lowest ebb, significantly the regular meetings of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG). In these meetings, Nepal has boldly presented its proposal to review and amend the 1950 treaty of peace and friendship to suit the political changes in Nepal and the international reality. Nepal is also seeking facilitative changes in the treaties related to transit and trade. We are in need of reliable transit facilities for unhindered access to the sea and the third country market. This includes one of the inherent rights of a landlocked nation. India also needs to show an open gesture to give more facilitated access to Nepali products in Indian market. We need less restricted rules for larger number of exportable items to India to narrow down the ever widening trade gap with the southern neighbour. If the strategic railway link between the two countries is developed as planned, it may facilitate speedy mobility of people and transportation of goods. It has its positive impact on trade and transit. The concept of inland waterways is in its nascent phase but it could open new possibilities in transit and trade. This would require building of dams along the border and we should take into account the inundation problems it could invite. The projects on petroleum pipeline and power transmission are not less important. Only the matter of concern is the prompt works and operation. It is high time to prove wrong the perception that Nepal-India bilateral projects linger without implementation.