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What Paradigms?

The past thirty years of India tilted Nepal policies will need both Nepal and India to correct. This would be as difficult for India at this micro-managed stage of Nepali fruition as it would be for K.P.Oli who is very much also a product of that micro-management. As much as our neighbor down south would have us believe that the ‘tilt’ has been corrected by Oli’s assertion in course of the Indian blockade and his emergence as the most powerful Nepali prime minister in decades, a mandate seemingly paid obeisance to at Delhi last week, post mortems of the trip hardly live up to Oli’s reemergence as a ‘nationalist’ par excellence. However, Nepali ‘windward’ set coverage of neighborhood policies raises undue expectations and so do the coverage down south. Nevertheless, the message that two sovereign countries are seeking to set new parameters of cooperation is being underlined in both countries. This, to say the least, is good. And , for some time to come, including that in course of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-announced two-day trip to this country, will be the underlying theme.
The mistakes of the past will nevertheless not be altogether hidden in course of the Modi trip too. Arun, upper Karnali, the Kosi high dam all are declared evidence of Indian tampering in Nepali eyes and Modi cannot but endorse these this round. And, yet, a reference to waterways at Delhi will, on realistic grounds, if sincere, cannot but raise hopes of foresight regarding an overall approach to water resources. If this is so, the total gamut of water management cannot but be reviewed and common sense will have to concede that a sound, long-term water resource management must mean cooperation from the water sources up north to water outlets down south. South Asian waters have suffered politics over millennia whereas the Chinese have gained through planning that is long term enough to have Henry Kissinger admire their foresight. It is just not roads and railways or connectivity or markets alone that make for long term cooperation and integration. It is trust and actions based on trust and this is what Narendra Modi must find out in Kahmandu. Unfortunately, Modi will have to concede to the making of the trust deficiency in Oli.
The same applies up north as well. That Modi visits China soon and several times later and that Modi visits Nepal and, probably also several times later this year raises hopes of course. But the legacy of Indian micro-management underscores the fact that the trust deficiency in Nepal lies in its lopsided and wayward foreign policy obsession. The Chinese will not be quite so blunt on Oli’s absence at Boao maybe. But they will want to see Nepali commitments fulfilled quite naturally. Chinese pontification regarding the need to improve trust and understanding in Nepal-India relations will alone not see materialization as Oli’s Delhi trip underscored. It is the Chinese willingness to help remove the seeds of discord in Nepal-India relations that will have to mean beneficial change in Nepal and Sino-Indian cooperation in enabling long-term paradigms for change in Nepal to emerge. This will have to mean cooperation on part of both countries to restore traditional stability in Nepal without which the trust deficiency will remain. More than Oli-Modi or Oli-Xi, one awaits visible fallouts in Nepal of Xi-Modi talks that will signal that priorities have indeed changed for sake of South Asian prosperity and peace.

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