RAW chief's Nepal visit creates ripples in neighbourly ties

    27-Oct-2020   
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New Delhi: For long India has been accused of being an elder brother to Nepal. Of course, there have been media reports of certain problems between two neighbours lately. Still, the diplomatic channels were on and thus Research, and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel is paying a courtesy call on Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on October 22 and the ensuing visit of army chief Gen M M Naravane in the first week of November has created ripples.
 
But there are enough hints that these measures would help cement the ties.
 
Nevertheless, many wonder why the visit of India's external intelligence chief was given so much media attention.
 
RAW chief Goel had been to Kathmandu last year in July at the invitation of the RAW's Nepali counterpart National Intelligence Department, and even then he had met the Prime Minister Oli.
 
In Nepal, politicians and experts wonder why the Modi government has to depute an intelligence sleuth to handle 'bilateral dialogues'.Recently there was a major row with regard maps. Former Deputy Prime Minister and ex-Defence minister Bhim Rawal have questioned the timing of the visit and "the way Goel met with the Prime Minister Oli", says a report in 'The Kathmandu Post'.
 
That even around 2009-10 also, New Delhi was perceived to be having an interfering role in the Himalayan country, and the then Foreign Minister of Nepal, Upendra Yadav had told this scribe, "The allegation made from time to time that the Indian government interferes in our internal matter may not be correct 100 per cent. But it is definitely half-truth.....Ardh Satya toh hae hi".
 
Things have moved on since then.
 
The government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has pursued a different roadmap and its Act East policy. There was a clear 'Neighbourhood First' policy, and Nepal has been on the priority list.
 
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said earlier this year that India's ties with Nepal are not ordinary and that "no power in the world" can break their relationship,
 
In fact, it is true that the ties between the two countries came under strain after the Defence Minister inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.
 
Analysts suggest, one major difference between the UPA dispensation and the incumbent regime under Modi is that the incumbent Indian Prime Minister has far greater authority than his predecessor Manmohan Singh.
 
Of course, diplomacy is more often a delicate and ever-sensitive matter.
 
There are a number of contentious issues that could be put on the table for 'negotiations' including the 1950 treaty.
 
One analyst on the condition of anonymity told 'Organiser", "There have been so many blunders committed with regard Nepal and other neighbouring countries like Myanmar and even Sri Lanka. It has to be a big struggle since 2014 to correct the sins of the past".
 
Modi was the first PM who visited Nepal after 17 years in 2014, and he also used powerful phrases to describe the Indo-Nepal relations "as old like the Himalaya and the Ganga".
 
He also had stressed on the constitutional structure of Nepal. In fact, during interaction with the then Nepal PM, Sushil Koirala had said - India did not want to 'impede' in its internal affairs.
 
"Nepal is a truly sovereign nation, and we have always believed that it is not our job to interfere in what you do but to support you in the path you decide to take," PM Modi had said.
 
The then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also had visited Nepal.
 
In retrospect, it may be mentioned that there is a lot of rumour-mongering and misinformation campaign which often guide Indo-Nepal relations. In December 2000, there was a violent protest in the streets of Kathmandu over actor Hrithik Roshan's alleged some anti-Nepal remarks. The star had denied giving any such interview.
 
There was no confirmation either that the matinee idol said something like that.
 
"In fact, none of the demonstrators in Kathmandu could confirm which radio station had aired. Roshan's interviewed... but the anti-India violence did happen nevertheless," says an analyst and underlines that often there could be hidden Chinese or even Pakistani hands in fomenting these troubles.
 
Thus, there are words of wisdom that the "trust deficit needs to be bridged" and Indian foreign policy engine room must work not only towards improving ties with Nepal, it must also counter the Chinese and even Pakistani influence.
 
Even with Naga militancy, Nepal had played a role. The NSCN (IM) leaders used to visit Nepal capital frequently in 1992-93.
 
A Briton David Ward, who worked for Naga groups, also used to visit Nepal for raising funds and meeting 'Naga insurgent trainees' in Lalitpur. Moreover, there have been well-organised backroom works by various institutes, local media houses and other outlets -funded by Chinese and Pakistan - to build up a 'pro-Chinese' and 'ant-India' public opinion on important issues like Kashmir and India's nuke tests in 1998.