Mission ModiIndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind two-day visit to Nepal was filled with spectacles. Beginning in Janakpur, Modi paid homage at the Janaki Temple and gave a speech in which he eulogised Nepali culture and emphasised the deep links between Nepal and India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind two-day visit to Nepal was filled with spectacles. Beginning in Janakpur, Modi paid homage at the Janaki Temple and gave a speech in which he eulogised Nepali culture and emphasised the deep links between Nepal and India. Flying to Muktinath in the mountain region, he worshipped at the temple there, highlighting the unity of cultures from the Himalayas to the Tarai. And finally visiting the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, he completed his visit to religious sites in all topological regions of Nepal: the Tarai, the mountains and the middle hills.
These visits made evident that Modi’s chief purpose in visiting Nepal was to help eliminate the negative sentiments towards New Delhi that has prevailed among a large section of Nepal’s population since the blockade of 2015-016. Although it is too early to say, it appears that visit has served its intended purpose. Before he came to Kathmandu, Nepali Twittersphere was awash with comments criticising India for imposing the blockade in 2015. On the day of his departure, the focus was much more on what he did and said in Nepal, and the criticism was much more muted.
In addition to symbolic gestures intended for the broader public, Modi engaged with an extensive range of political leaders, both in and out of government. Judging by remarks made by UML leaders over the past few days, the tensions between the party and the Indian government is fast on the wane. Modi’s visit can thus been seen as a culmination of a series of efforts made by Indian officials since the December elections in Nepal to normalise relations with the UML. Prime Minister Oli has said in parliament that there is no longer any need for bilateral ties with India to be affected by events of the past. Rather, the focus should be on deepening relations and development cooperation in the future.
And here is where the crux lies. While Modi’s visit does appear to have had a significant impact on Nepal-India ties, the matter does not stop here. The relationship is an evolving process. The development of ties will be determined by the concrete resolution of disputes and the swift implementation of development projects that have been agreed upon. The joint communiqué issued by the two countries on Saturday mentioned that both sides would take “effective measures for the implementation of all the agreements and understandings reached in the past”. In particular, there are strong hopes for swift movement in three areas—agriculture, rail linkages between the two countries and development of inland waterways. Needless to say, the development of such connectivity between Nepal and India would contribute significantly to greater prosperity and deeper ties between the two countries. The communiqué also specifies that the two sides will iron out all outstanding issues by September. We hope that both governments will take steps towards the implementation of past accords (Postal Road, for one) and the new ones signed during Prime Minister Oli’s recent visit with no further delay.