April 4, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
PM’s state visit to India
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is visiting India at a time when China and India are flexing their sphere of influence in South Asia. His address to the parliament on Tuesday was nuanced and demonstrated maturity demanded of government head. He clearly laid out foreign policy priorities of his government. PM Oli said that the basic principle of Nepal’s foreign policy with its neighbors is friendship based on equality and mutual interest, including adherence to international treaties that Nepal is part of. Prime Minister went on great length about Nepal’s harmonious relation with India and China and stressed the need to strengthen that relation for “betterment of national interests.” He explained that his India visit will focus on reaching agreements to implement past projects, strengthening connectivity through road and railways, ensuring security by controlling illegal activities along the border areas, implementing Pancheshwar multipurpose project, agricultural extension, soft loans for national development, resolving currency exchange issue, SAARC and BIMSTEC. This is exactly what our priorities should be at the moment. We hope he will walk the talk while in New Delhi on April 6 and 7.
This particular visit by Nepali PM should not be seen as a routine visit every prime minister makes to New Delhi after assuming office. PM Oli is going to India as the head of the government that has over two-thirds majority in the parliament. Therefore, he is in the situation to negotiate with India from the position of strength. The PM should materialize his commitment made in the parliament on Tuesday while carrying out bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and Indian foreign ministry officials. India has invested in big projects like Postal Highway and Pancheshwar but their implementation has been frustratingly slow. Likewise, there has been little progress in utilization of one billion dollars line of credit that Prime Minister Modi extended to us during his Nepal visit in 2014. He needs to raise this issue with India and ensure that India-supported projects are implemented timely.
As a leader who dealt with India during the tough times of blockade, which also became the bone of contention between New Delhi and Kathmandu, he could utilize this opportunity to mend fences and bring Nepal-India relation to pre-blockade level. But given the number of exchange of visits between Indian and Nepali leaders post-blockade and the positive gestures India has shown toward Nepal in the recent times, many issues between the two countries have been resolved. Prime Minister left good impression in Nepal by laying out his priorities before leaving for India. But this is what his predecessors also did before embarking on India visit in the past. Like him, they also promised to take concrete steps toward implementing the past projects. But this has not happened so far. Modi and Oli will have to ensure this does not happen this time around. The visit will be deemed successful if he is able to achieve something concrete. Or else it won’t be any different from the ritual exercise.