From May 31 to June 3, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, often known as “Prachanda,” visited India for four days. His trip abroad was his first since becoming prime minister in December 2022 and after the most recent elections. According to Prachanda and Prime Minister Modi’s comments, the visit was a smashing success, excluding diplomatic exaggeration.
At a news conference held at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Prachanda described his visit as an incredible success. In Hyderabad House in New Delhi, where they had their discussions, Modi had advised Prachanda that the two countries’ relations should soar to Himalayan heights. Prachanda said, “Modiji stressed the importance of Nepal-India ties, saying they should be higher than the Himalayas. PM Modi described his 2014 trip to Nepal as a success. We should now try to improve our relationships.
In any case, Prachanda’s visit was noteworthy and distinctive from those in 2004, 2002, and 1996. First, given his Communist upbringing, it was a little surprising to see him in the Nepalese national outfit, Daurasuruwal. Second, in contrast to his predecessor, KP Oli, who had a decidedly pro-China tilt, Prachanda preferred New Delhi as his first port of call to Beijing. Third, Prachanda had previously threatened a “tunnel-war” against India and was critical of New Delhi’s perceived micromanagement of Kathmandu. Fourthly, he was reflecting political pragmatism along the lines of Otto von Bismarck’s maxim, “Politics is the art of the possible,” as any politician everywhere would.
Keep in mind that he is in charge of a coalition that includes his own Maoist Centre party, which received just 32 members in the 275-member House, as well as Nepali Congress, which received a maximum of 88 seats. He first supported Oli’s Unified Marxist-Leninist Party, which won 79 seats, but he later parted with it when Oli demanded that his candidate be elected president. The Nepali Congress’ presidential candidate was then supported by Prachanda, who joined the party.
Before talking about his “successful visit,” it’s important to understand Nepal’s tenuous internal power structure, which throws forth fresh surprises every month. It’s interesting to note that every year since Nepal became a republic in 2008, a different administration has been in place. If Prachanda could maintain his partnership for the whole period, he could solidify the “accomplishments” brought about by his visit. One of the achievements he highlighted at the aforementioned news conference was the historic deal for India to buy 10,000 megawatts of electricity from Nepal over the next ten years. Nepal’s largest economic asset is hydropower. Its production and delivery to India might fundamentally alter the situation. This will take the place of electricity production using fossil fuels.
As you may remember, Nepal used to import electricity from India; today, with that country’s assistance, it is the other way around.More significantly, India consented to let Nepal export electricity to Bangladesh utilizing the Indian transmission system. In the near future, an agreement will be hammered out between the three nations of Bangladesh, Nepal, and India.
Overall, three completed infrastructure projects were inaugurated, seven agreements were made, and three other projects were begun digitally. Trade and transit, motorable bridges, hydropower trade, cross-border railroads, petroleum pipelines, irrigation, inundation and flood control, agriculture, civil aviation, etc. were all topics addressed by the agreements and discussions.
Integrated Check-Posts (ICPs), which enable commerce movement between the two nations, were a part of the seven accords. The second is the extension of the 1992 India-Nepal Transit Treaty, which adds additional provisions for interior waterways and rail connections for the first time. An MoU on collaboration in the area of petroleum infrastructure came in third. Fourth, an MOU between Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Services Delhi and Institute of Foreign Affairs Nepal. Fifth, a memorandum of understanding for the 480 MW Phukot-Karnali hydro project. The Lower Arul 669 (MW) hydropower project development agreement comes in at number six. There are already active 900 MW Arul 3 and 490 MW Arul 4 projects. And the seventh is a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Nepali Cleaning House Limited and National Payment Company India Limited for faster cross-border payment for business, students, and tourists from both Nepal and India. The establishment of a fertilizer factory in Nepal with the involvement of both public and private sector organizations was also agreed. This fertilizer plant would help Nepali agriculture.
Prachanda is too familiar with India. He had previously fought against Nepal’s monarchy as a Maoist rebel in India. Prachanda opted to praise Modi’s accomplishments at home and internationally, particularly the G-20 leadership New Delhi is providing, since India is Nepal’s largest trade partner. He agreed to use diplomacy to settle the divisive territorial disputes. In 2019, ties between Nepal and India had deteriorated for a number of reasons, including an area that included Kalapani, the Lipulekh trijunction, and the Susta region in West Champaran (Bihar), which was shown on maps of both nations.
However, while talking about India and Nepal, let’s not forget about the proverbial elephant in the room: China. Nepal is strategically located between China and India, with Beijing vying for influence in Kathmandu and New Delhi attempting to preserve its long-standing ties of friendship and closeness. The United States now seems to have entered the conflict. Prachanda arrived in Nepal at a time when the Nepali President had just signed a bill into law that would have eliminated the seven-year waiting period for citizenship for Indian women who marry Nepali men. The Chinese initially opposed it because they were concerned that Tibetans living in India might get citizenship in Nepal.
India’s capital, New Delhi, must be aware of the perception of a “big-brother” attitude toward its neighbors, particularly Nepal, with whom it has close and unique cultural links. Madhesis (Nepalis of Indian descent) saw India as a partner in marriage and a common cultural heritage, or “roti-beti relation.” In the past, India has succumbed to the emotional trap of siding with the Madhesis against the Republic of Nepal. Supporting the ‘blockade’ put up by Madhesis ought to raise some red flags. Even while the aspirations of the Madhesis were legitimate, some of us had urged back then that there should be a relationship across countries rather than only with them. With Prachanda’s visit, it seems that a new chapter has begun since a Maoist leader who is supposed to be anti-India is now warming up to New Delhi.