India has given fillip to diplomatic efforts to placate its long-time friend Nepal so that the Himalayan nation does not fall prey to the “sinister” Chinese ploy. Beijing is sparing no efforts, at this juncture, to add fuel to fire by instigating Kathmandu to rake up boundary issues with New Delhi.
In a telephonic talk with his Nepalese counterpart K.P. Sharma Oli two days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have assured him of all possible help and cooperation from India to ensure the development and growth of the Himalayan nation. Oli had called PM Modi to extend greetings on 74th Independence Day. PM Modi used the opportunity to impress upon his Nepalese counterpart that India is Nepal’s long-time and trusted friend. Sources said that the PM gave Oli a message categorically that others (read China) are just using Nepal for their own agenda.
In what is being seen as an effect of PM Modi’s telephonic conversation with Oli, Nepal has started giving an indication of conciliation. Nepal’s Ambassador to India Nilamber Acharya remarked, “The ties between the two nations are close and friendly and that both sides can sit together in proper times and solve any problem.”
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has taken note of this statement from Nepalese ambassador and described it as a positive sign as far as ties between India and Nepal are concerned. PM Modi’s telephonic talk with Oli set the stage for more intensive diplomatic efforts by the MEA to mollify Nepal over the issues related to the boundary that it has raised in the past obviously at the behest of Beijing.
Meanwhile, officials of Nepal and India met in Kathmandu on Monday. They together discussed the projects in Nepal which are being assisted by the Indian government. The projects which were discussed in this high-level meeting include the Pancheshwar multipurpose project and motorable bridges over the Mahakali (Kali, Sharda) river which originates in the Kalapani area. This is the area which was recently in the headlines after Nepal had raised it as a boundary.
The meeting was the first since the border row. The Nepal delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi, while Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra headed the Indian team. As reported earlier by The Daily Guardian, the Nepalese side could not raise any issue pertaining to the boundary dispute as a result of diplomatic pressure by the MEA. Last week, Nepal was insistent on taking up the boundary issues for discussion either in the same meeting, if mechanism permits, or on the sidelines of it.
According to sources, the meeting was positive and productive. Officials focused on border infrastructure projects and a cross-border oil pipeline. The meeting was held under the aegis of the bilateral oversight mechanism via videoconference.
More than the agenda, the interaction assumes significance in the light of the fact that it took place at a time when ties between both the neighbouring countries have hit a low. The exercise is being seen as a thaw in the ties and it will open up a window for further dialogue in future.
What had ruffled feathers in Nepal was India’s inauguration this May of a new road from Dharchula to Lipulekh on the Mansarovar Yatra route. As an angry reaction to this, the Oli government came out with a new map of Nepal, adding to it an area of 370 sq km at the trijunction of Nepal, India and China (Tibet) which India maintains as its territory. That’s not all. A Constitution Amendment Bill was also passed by Nepal’s Parliament to legitimize the alteration or addition of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpivadhura to the country’s new map.
MEA sources are of the opinion that China used the situation to see that the ties between India and Nepal nosedive to the point of no return. China kept adding fuel to fire just to increase its clout in Nepal as part of its conspiracy of creating a “string of pearls” surrounding India, an official said.
Therefore, PM Modi asked External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to ensure that projects assisted by the Indian government are expedited to pre-empt China in Nepal. By speaking to Oli over the phone, PM Modi gave the much-needed momentum to the ongoing diplomatic campaign in this direction. Now, Indian officials will go ahead with that momentum.