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President’s untimely and inauspicious India visit humiliates Nepalese

By Our Reporter
President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s state visit to India was expected not only to improve the relations between India and CPN-UML chairman KP Oli but also to bring the Nepal-India relations to the right track. But it could not happen so. The visit became a mere routine work although almost all leaders including Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi met her in New Delhi.
However, Modi did not forget to express his dislike to Nepal’s new constitution during the meeting. Moreover, within a few days, President Bhandari returned to Nepal India succeeded to isolate KP Oli from other parties by making the ruling parties and the Madhes-based parties to reach a controversial agreement to amend the constitution including the Article 274 and hold the local elections in two phases.
Moreover, the Nepalese people felt humiliated when President Bhandari was received by India’s Minister of State for Women and Child Development Krishna Raj was at the Indira Gandhi International Airport of New Delhi. The Nepalese people who had seen President Bhandari receiving and seeing off Indian President Pranav Mukherjee at the Tribhuvan International Airport in October last year, were unable to digest what they saw at IGI, New Delhi. Although receiving head of state or government by a minister or state minister has been a long practice in India, the Nepalese people had expected a reciprocated response from India during the President’s India tour.
Even the Indian media sensed this lack of reciprocation during President’s India visit.
“India-Nepal relations have suffered many ups and downs in recent years, especially in the past one decade, resulting in India losing clout and credibility in Nepal. That naturally calls for serious introspection into what has gone wrong in the relations along with corrective measures to address them, especially during high-level bilateral visits,” writes journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire in The Indian Express.
“In other words, the two sides routinely talk about civilisational commonalities, culture, religion and people-to-people relations binding them “together”, but rarely go deeper into the current state of bilateral relations marred by a trust deficit. Bhandari’s visit to Delhi, her first since becoming president in October last, failed to impress on either side that a serious effort was needed to repair the frayed relations. It seems the Modi government has not fully realised the impact of the policy that President Pranab Mukherjee as External Affairs Minister in the UPA government pursued in Nepal,” he adds.
“It facilitated the Maoists and their radical agenda taking the centrestage in Nepali politics while gradually sidelining the moderate and traditional political forces. This policy is today seen as the main reason for the fragmentation of Nepali politics. The failure on the part of Nepali actors to prepare a constitution involving all the political sections has only prolonged the transition process. Both Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi have reiterated that India’s stance is for the “peace, stability and prosperity of Nepal”, suggesting that “having all sides on board is a pre-requisite to achieve that objective”. But that has proved to be something easier said than done.
President Bhandari’s departure to Delhi coincided with the ten-day long Nepal-China joint military exercise, the first in history, in Kathmandu. China has promised continuity and support to the Nepal army in combating terrorism, and for keeping peace. General Singh”s message was clear: India is keen to do more to mend its relationship with the Nepal army, which got offended when the government of India stopped supply of arms and ammunition as part of its overtures to the Maoists to join the “peace process”. The Nepal army was then fighting the Maoists.
Maoists, in Modi’s words, may have given up “yuddha” to embrace the “Buddha”, but they are largely responsible for the prevailing political instability, and the resultant erosion in the authority of the state. The continued instability and loss of credibility of the Nepalese state, and the failure of the “India-mediated and influenced political agenda” of 2005, has also created a legitimate space for other countries, mainly China, to enter Nepal as a stakeholder. In Beijing’s perception, China is as concerned about Nepal’s peace, stability and prosperity as India. The first Chinese military exercise, most likely to be followed by Nepal joining the One Belt, One Road initiative soon, is seen as an indication of the events to come.
The onus of restoring India’s credibility in Nepal falls on the likes of General Singh and his officials in the Ministry of External Affairs. It will require an objective assessment of where and how things went wrong, when India chose to recognise “Maoist revolutionaries” as the true representatives of Nepali people.”

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