Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Jul, 05, 2018

[op-ed snap] Freedom from being ‘India-locked’: on Nepal-India relations


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s dwindling relationship with Nepal post the 2015 blockade and ways to rejuvenate it


Nepal Prime Minister’s China Trip

  1. The visit had much significance as Mr. Oli had made his first visit as Prime Minister to China in March 2016, as Nepal was just recovering from the Indian blockade that had paralyzed lives
  2. The visit was hailed as a great success

Anti-India sentiments in Nepal

  1. Whipping up anti-India sentiments as Nepali nationalism has been common since the Shah Kings and Rana rulers
  2. The blockade of 2015 was different in nature
  3. Nepalis, who had been hit by a major earthquake in April 2015, were still recovering and India started a blockade, due to its reservations about the constitution Nepal was adopting
  4. An entire generation of young Nepalis, who were already alienated from India due to the opening of newer education destinations, saw the blockade as a move against a neighbour which had not got its act right

Problem with Nepal

  1. Nepal has historically remained ‘India-locked’, rather than being termed landlocked, as it is dependent on India for transit to the seas
  2. Being landlocked is not much of an issue as one can get sea-locked, like the Maldives, but to be completely dependent on a single country for transit rights now became an issue to resolve

India’s problem only increasing with the blockade

  1. During his visit to China in 2016, Mr. Oli, for the first time, managed to push the agenda of a trade and transit agreement with China on the lines with special agreements with India
  2. With Southeast Asia well covered and inroads made in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, for China, Nepal is the obvious next country for engagement
  3. With India opting out of the BRI, Nepal continues to remain the best conduit for Indian markets for China
  4. Nepal will be connected with China through a railway network in addition to roads
  5. Rail and road networks will provide Nepal an alternative for petroleum products that continue to remain the highest imported product

What can India do?

  1. Nepal is a place of opportunity for people from the border towns of India
  2. The perspective has to change in New Delhi to factor in Nepal’s concerns on the open border
  3. It is time for India to be proactive and redefine its engagement rather than continue to be reactive
  4. The way India has been flexible with the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) meetings is a good signal

Way forward

  1. The onus is on India to rethink on a long-term basis how to recalibrate its relationship with Nepal
  2. India needs to continue to understand that there is another opportunity to rewrite bilateral and geopolitical history. It should not be squandered
  3. India needs to also realize the new reality that its monopoly over geopolitics in Nepal is over, and there is another relationship that Nepal is nurturing
May, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] India and Nepal are scaling up their ties


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The complex issues present in the Indo-Nepal relationship.



  1. The Indian PM is visiting Nepal from 11-12 May
  2. The back-and-forth visits(of both PMs) indicate that India and Nepal are working towards scaling up their bilateral relationship

What explains the frequent meetings between the premiers of the two countries?

  1. There seems to be a growing recognition in India as well as in Nepal that deterioration in relations between the two countries, with close socio-economic-cultural relations, is not desirable
  2. There is a strong opinion that India is reaching out to Kathmandu because of China’s growing presence in Nepal

Complexities of the relationship

  1. Given Nepal’s power asymmetry with India and China, it should be no surprise that it seeks to swing between the two nations to maintain autonomy
  2. However, from an Indian perspective, it appears that New Delhi has been at the receiving end of considerable animosity
  3. On the other hand, there is a strong opinion in some segments in Nepal on cultivating a robust relationship with China in response to alleged Indian interference in domestic politics
    Railway line project
  4. A railway line to Kathmandu from India was recently announced
  5. Once operationalized, it will significantly enhance the already rich people-to-people interactions
  6. Now, if the Chinese build a railway line to Kathmandu and Indians deliver on their own promise, then it would become a de facto trilateral project
  7. Given the growing trade deficit, the prospect of granting direct and greater market access to China without any reciprocal gestures will raise concerns in India

China and Nepal relationship: The issues

  1. While China does not have people-to-people interactions on a par with India, it has a long history of deploying overseas assistance to Nepal
  2. The Chinese connectivity projects need to overcome two significant limitations
  3. First, their economic viability is contingent on their ability to access the Indian market
  4. Second, they will have to traverse the Terai region, which enjoys a close socio-cultural relationship with India

Will India and China also collaborate to build connectivity projects in Nepal?

  1. It is doubtful at the moment
  2. In addition to traversing the Himalayas, such collaboration would also have to overcome a mountain of distrust
Apr, 11, 2018

[op-ed snap] A new beginning with Nepal


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Complement this newscard with [op-ed snap] The Nepal reset.


Realization of a new beginning

  1. Nepali PM has realised that his campaign rhetoric of Nepali nationalism with overt shades of anti-Indianism is needed to be modified,
  2. and by observing the tradition of visiting Delhi, he was signalling the shift
    (It is a long-standing tradition that Nepali Prime Ministers make Delhi the first foreign port of call after taking over)
  3. In India too, there has been a growing realisation that time had come to make a new beginning with Nepal

Some crucial issues

  1. India’s openly stated reservations on the new constitution in support of the Madhesi cause
  2. and the economic disruptions caused by the undeclared blockade had fuelled anti-Indianism
  3. This anti-Indianism was cleverly exploited by Mr. Oli and he made significant electoral gains
    There are many other difficult issues which are needed to be addressed, including
    (1) review of the contentious 1950 Treaty,
    (2) recruitment of Nepali nationals in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army,
    (3) resolving the fallout of the 2016 demonetisation exercise which has left the Nepal Rastra Bank holding a stock of Indian currency,
    (4) long-pending hydel projects like Pancheshwar,
    (5) resumption of the SAARC summit process which remains stalled since 2016 after Jaish-e-Mohammed militants attacked the Army base in Uri, etc.

Slow pace of project implementation 

  1. For decades, India has been Nepal’s most significant development partner
  2. Yet the pace of project implementation has been slow, leading to significant time and cost over-runs
  3. To be fair, both India and Nepal share the responsibility for this and political instability in Nepal hardly helped
  4. For example, the idea of four Integrated Check Posts (ICP) on the India-Nepal border to facilitate movement of goods, vehicles and people was mooted 15 years ago and an MOU signed in 2005
  5. While preparation of surveys and project reports moved slowly on the Indian side, acquisition of land by the Nepali authorities got held up leading to delayed construction
  6. As a result, only the Raxaul-Birgunj ICP has been completed and was inaugurated last week
  7. During this time, the cost of the project went up fourfold
  8. Another example is, Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross-border petroleum products pipeline, a project for which the MOU between the two governments was signed in 2004
  9. It took another three years for the Indian Oil Corporation and the Nepal Oil Corporation to sign the follow-up MOU, eight years to convert it into an agreement and three more to begin the works

The way foreward

  1. What is now needed is effective delivery on the pending projects so that connectivity is enhanced and the idea of ‘inclusive development and prosperity’ assumes reality
Apr, 10, 2018

[op-ed snap] The Nepal reset


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Suggestions for improving the relationship between India and Nepal.


Recent visit of the Nepali PM(K.P. Sharma Oli)

  1. The visit signals an important recalibration of bilateral ties
  2. The visit gives hope that the rupture in ties over India’s reservations about Nepal’s new constitution is being repaired

Improvement in the Indo-Nepalese relationship

  1. Mr. Oli put aside the anti-India rhetoric of his election campaign, and came to India on his first post-election visit abroad seeking ‘friendship first, and friendship second and third’
  2. Indian PM also promised support on development projects that meet “Nepal’s priorities
  3. The reset is long overdue, and should be accompanied by a transformation in the tenor of the relationship

Some issues need to be addressed

  1. Nepsl has been too susceptible to conspiracy theories about Indian meddling,
  2. while India and its diplomats in the Nepal embassy have sometimes lent credence to the theories by adopting a patronising attitude

How to further improve the bilateral relationship?

  1. A first step to the reset would be the completion of the ongoing process of updating the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship
  2. Nepal would acknowledge that its citizens have benefited from the ease of employment and residence in India that the treaty provides

What should be done?

  1. India must recognise that Nepal’s aspirational young population is also looking beyond the open Indian border for opportunities,
  2. and Mr. Oli’s desire to turn his “land-locked” country into a “land-linked” country with a merchant navy must be considered positively
  3. From now on deliverables, such as road and railway links, power projects and post-earthquake reconstruction commitments should determine the success of the partnership
    (not just the announcement of new initiatives)
Apr, 06, 2018

If China builds your dams, India won’t buy energy: PM Narendra Modi to tell KP Oli


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Budhi Gandaki project, Arun III project, etc.

Mains level: There is a (virtual)battle going on between India and China of securing greater influence in Nepal.


The battle for influence in the Nepal 

  1. The Indian PM is expected to tell Nepal counterpart that he can award as many dam projects as he likes to China, but India will not be able to buy the energy produced

The $2.5-billion Budhi Gandaki project

  1. The $2.5-billion Budhi Gandaki project, on a river by the same name in central-western Nepal, is increasingly becoming the centrepiece of this tug-of-war between India and China
  2. This is because the Budhi Gandaki was awarded year to China’s Gezhouba Group, weeks after former Nepal PM (Prachanda) decided to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative
  3. But within months, Nepali Congress had taken over the Prachanda’s government, and he had cancelled the dam project
  4. But last month, Oli told the South China Morning Post that he intends to revive the Budhi Gandaki, come what may

From the point of view of Nepal

  1. According to Oli, Nepal urgently needs to develop hydropower as an alternative to the highly expensive petroleum that it fully imports, most of it from India
  2. Nepal’s fuel import bill is said to have trebled in the last five years

The Arun III project

  1. India and Nepal are going to lay the foundation stone of the $1.5 billion, 900 MW Arun III hydro-electric project in the Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal
  2. It is likely that India will buy a large chunk of the power that is produced by the Arun III project, being built by the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN)
Feb, 28, 2018

India, Nepal to hold joint exercise in Pithoragarh


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Surya Kiran exercise

Mains level: India-Nepal relations over the years


Surya Kiran Nepal-India Military Joint Exercise

  1. India and Nepal would hold a joint exercise in Uttarakhand that will include training on jungle warfare, anti-terrorism combat as well as disaster response activities
  2. The 13th edition of the Nepal-India joint military exercise will be held in Pithoragarh in a couple of months

About the joint exercise

  1. This is a regular military exercise being organized annually between the two armies
  2. Last year, the 12th edition of Surya Kiran military exercise was held in Kathmandu
Dec, 11, 2017

[op-ed snap] Next Door Nepal: Virtues of soft power


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union, Lumbini (relation with Buddhism)

Mains level: Importance of Nepal for India


India-Nepal relations under stress

  1. A major thread that has linked India and Nepal for centuries is under stress
  2. Some refer to it as religious, but the ties that link people to people in the two countries have a strong civilizational and cultural underpinning
  3. This “soft diplomacy” is increasingly weakening

China getting advantage

  1. China seems to have picked up a thread that India abandoned when it began to pursue a radical path in Nepal from 2006
  2. India’s preference for radical political agendas have undermined, and even demolished, the institutions that facilitated cultural linkages between the two countries
  3. This has contributed to the distrust between Kathmandu and New Delhi

What India did?

  1. India, with the support of the European Union, literally dictated Nepal’s political course from 2006
  2. Together, they blocked the efforts of a large but disorganized section of the Nepali populace
  3. People of Nepal wanted contentious issues like the shift from a monarchy to a republic and the adoption of secularism as state credo instead of continuing as a Hindu state to be settled through debate, and if necessary a referendum
  4. India aligned with the Maoists who were waging war against the state and asked its long-term ally, the Nepali Congress to support the Maoists

China leveraging Buddhism

  1. Buddhism has immensely contributed in making Hindu-majority Nepal respectful towards all religions
  2. Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted in harmony
  3. China’s keen interest to develop Lumbini and build a railway line to Sigatse in Tibet via Kerung is an attempt on the part of Beijing to leverage soft power in bilateral relations
  4. China recognises that Buddhism can be a binding thread between the two countries

Anti-India sentiment in Nepal

  1. The current anti-India sentiment in Nepal, which will also reflect in the mandate, is to a large part due to the 2015 economic blockade the Modi government imposed on Nepal
  2. Nepal had yet to recover from a devastating earthquake
  3. K.P. Oli, then the prime minister, stood up to India and turned to China for help

Way forward

  1. India is unclear about how to repair the damage diplomacy has done to its soft power and the resultant confusion in the bilateral relations
  2. It should try to restore the ties with focus on cultural and religious linkages
Aug, 25, 2017

Won’t allow any activity against friendly neighbour India: Nepal PM

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pancheshwar project , Arun III irrigation project

Mains level: India-Nepal relations



  1. Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Thursday assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his country would not allow any activity against its “friendly neighbour”
  2. However, two leaders have not discussed “Doklam” and the current tension between India and China during the visit

India-Nepal cooperation

  1. Modi stressed on closer cooperation between the security and defence forces of the two countries in order to avoid misuse of the open border between India and Nepal.
  2. Deuba gave an assurance of “every support, every help and cooperationon the “defence and security” aspect.
  3. Acknowledging “issues” in the implementation of the Constitution, Deuba expressed confidence that a Constitution “encompassing” the views of the people from all sections and ethnicities would be a reality.
  4. The two leaders jointly inaugurated the Kataiya- Kusaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur cross border power transmission lines. Modi said this would give an additional 100 MW of power to Nepal, apart from the current 350 MW.
  5. The two sides agreed on development of the Ramayana and Buddhist tourism circuits through better connectivity.
  6. Flood management and irrigation projects was a focal point in the talks between the two countries.
  7. Detailed Project Report for the Pancheshwar project on the Uttarakhand border of the Indian side would be finalised soon, Deuba stressed that it would help in flood control and crop irrigation
  8. Modi said Deuba had informed him that the land acquisition issues for Arun III irrigation project had been addressed and the Nepalese Prime Minister had invited him for the ground-breaking ceremony.
  9. The two sides signed eight pacts, including on cooperation in countering drug trafficking and post-earthquake reconstruction in the Himalayan nation.