For a detailed discussion background on India-Nepal Relation, refer to India- Nepal Relation UPSC GS Notes. This article will discuss the current affairs related to India-Nepal relations in the light of visit by Prachanda in 2023.
From the perspective of India’s Neighbourhood First policy, Nepal is one of our most crucial neighbours since it shares a long border with China. The recent visit of Nepal prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ” Prachanda” has provided new momentum to Indo-Nepal bilateral relations. Knowledge of the roots of Indo-Nepal relation, its contemporary challenges, and future prospect is very critical from the UPSC GS PAPER II point of view.
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Contemporary Issues in India-Nepal Relations
India’s concerns on the 2015 constitution:
Although India and Nepal share deep-rooted civilisational and cultural ties, the contemporary state of relations is mainly defined by the promulgation of the constitution in Nepal in 2015 and the subsequent reaction of India.
- 2015 constitution provides less representation to the Madheshi community in comparison to their population. India wanted Madhesh’s representation in proportion to its population.
- Article 283 of the Constitution states that only citizens by descent will be entitled to hold the posts of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly, Head of Province, Chief Minister, Speaker of Provincial Assembly and Chief of Security Bodies. This clause is seen as discriminatory for a large number of Madhesis who have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalization.
- Article 86 of the new Constitution states that National Assembly will comprise 8 members from each of 7 States and 3 nominated members. Madhesi parties want representation in National Assembly to be based on the population of the Provinces.
- Article 11(6) states that a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen may acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal as provided for in federal law. Madhesi parties want the acquisition of naturalised citizenship to be automatic on application.
Madheshi community resides in the plain areas of Nepal and they shared cultural, marriage ties etc with their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. A prominent theme of Nepal politics is the Pahari- Madheshi divide since the ruling elite of Nepal belongs to the hill region while the Madeshi community which almost constitutes 50% of Nepal’s population resided in the Terai region.
The Madheshi community has blocked the India-Nepal road connectivity as part of its protest against discriminatory provisions of the constitution. Many in Nepal accused India of promoting this blockade which lead to the inflammation of anti-Indian feelings in Nepal.
State of India-Nepal Relation post-2015:
- China factor: Nepal due to its land-locked nature between India and China is also known as the “yam between two boulders“. 2015 economic blockade prompted Nepal to sign a transit agreement with China to reduce its dependency on India. As per this agreement, China formally agreed to provide seven transit points– four seaports (Tianjin (Xingang), Shenzhen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang) and three land ports (Lanzhou, Lhasa, Xigatse) – to Nepal for trade with third countries. China is also financing the feasibility of the trans-Himalayan railway in Nepal which will connect Tibet with Kathmandu. Nepal, in turn, is part of China’s flagship “Belt and Road Initiative” and firmly supports the “One-China policy“. The increased political influence of China in Nepal’s domestic politics in recent years is viewed by many analysts as an indication of a decrease in Indian influence on Nepal.
- Stoking anti-Indianism: Most Nepal political parties and politicians used anti-India card to bolster their nationalistic credentials. This tendency got further accentuated after 2015.
- Release of the new political map: Nepal has released a new political map that claims Kalapani, Limpiyadhura, and Lipulekh of Uttarakhand as part of Nepal’s territory. The area of Susta (West Champaran district, Bihar) can also be noted in the new map.
- Issue of Gorkha soldier: Nepal is not happy with the Agnipath scheme and has urged India to suspend the recruitment of Gorkha soldiers into the Indian army under the scheme. In addition to that recent media reports of the plan of China to recruit Gorkha soldiers into the Peoples’s liberation army(PLA) is an added source of concern.
Recent Initiatives to Improve India-Nepal Relations
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his first trip to Nepal as PM had given the mantra of Highways, I-ways and Trans-ways as the defining theme of India-Nepal relations. Following are the major initiative taken in recent years to improve India-Nepal ties:
- First broad-gauge passenger railway service linking Bihar’s Jaynagar with Kurtha in Nepal’s Janakpur city
- South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal
- Conclusion of transit agreement between India and Nepal with provision for the facility of India inland waterways
- boost connectivity to the far western region of Nepal by building bridges at Shirsha and Jhulaghat.
- The first integrated checkpoint is at Birgunj Nepal, and three more are in the pipeline.
Boost to economic ties:
- Nepal has huge hydropower potential. India is already importing 450 MW of power from Nepal. A long-term Power Trade Agreement has been signed between India and Nepal today. Under this Agreement, we have set a target of importing 10,000 MW of electricity from Nepal in the coming ten years. Phukot-Karnali and Lower Arun Hydro-Electric Projects are the major power initiatives by India in Nepal.
- Setting up of new storage terminals at Chitwan and Jhapa
- Construction of a new fertilizer plant in Nepal with Indian assistance.
- The Ramayana Circuit includes major pilgrimage sites from India and Nepal that are related to the Ramayana, such as Ayodhya where a temple is being built for Lord Ram as well as Janakpur (in Nepal) which is believed to be the birthplace of Sita, the consort of Ram.
- the foundation of the India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage at Lumbini
- Revision of the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship has been a major demand of Nepalese political parties. Keeping an open mind, India and Nepal has constituted an 8-member eminent person group to review the entire gamut of India-Nepal ties.
India and Nepal share a “Roti-Beti ka rishta” due to their deep people and people ties. The perception of India as a “big brother” is a major irritant in Indo-Nepal ties. Also, the entry of China into South Asia with a special focus on Nepal has further complicated the situation. Yet India is working hard to shed its “big brothers” image and harness the full potential of India-Nepal relations and Nepal on its part too should look at its position as not being land-locked by India but rather as a bridge between two Asian giants to create an environment of harmony in the region.