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Why India should go the extra mile for Prachanda

Prachanda’s visit is an opportunity for New Delhi to reset India-Nepal ties and re-establish trust and goodwill

editorials Updated: Sep 14, 2016 22:45 IST
New Delhi should recognise that Prachanda has taken a risk of being branded an Indian stooge by ultra nationalists
New Delhi should recognise that Prachanda has taken a risk of being branded an Indian stooge by ultra nationalists(Reuters)

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ arrives today in New Delhi, on his first foreign visit after taking office. The last year has been a difficult one for India-Nepal ties. New Delhi believed the Nepali leadership should have shown more wisdom in promulgating a more inclusive constitution. The Kathmandu establishment, led by Prachanda’s predecessor KP Oli, blamed Delhi for supporting the Madhesi unrest, and used the moment to invite a greater Chinese role in Nepali politics. And even though Mr Oli visited India, the differences and mistrust were too deep, and there was a toxic air in state-to-state relations.

Read | How Nepal PM Prachanda’s relationship with India turned with the tide

All of this has changed with Maoist leader Prachanda’s bold decision to break away from the so-called ‘Left alliance’ with Mr Oli. With Prachanda committing to addressing the constitutional aspirations of Madhesis through an amendment, the political atmospherics in Kathmandu changed. This also vindicated New Delhi’s position. India had encouraged this process of power-realignment and Prachanda made it clear that he would revert to a more “balanced” foreign policy orientation, the subtext of which indicated recognising the importance of India in Nepal relations. For New Delhi, this visit is an opportunity to reset India-Nepal ties and bring back the enthusiasm and good cheer that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unleashed during his first visit to Kathmandu in 2014. While there is a history of mistrust, New Delhi should recognise that Prachanda has taken a risk of being branded an Indian stooge by ultra nationalists, and defied China, which wanted him to continue with Mr Oli. India must reassure him of support, go the extra mile, and proceed with bilateral relations at the pace at which he is comfortable.

Read | Pranab Mukherjee to visit Nepal in November

There is a perception in Nepal that India does not deliver on big development projects — China manages to capitalise on this resentment. To be able to allay such apprehensions, it is important for New Delhi to focus on the implementation of visible, major projects which helps change the lives of Nepali people for the better. India’s interest lies in an inclusive, democratic and friendly Nepal. And for now, the Prachanda-led government is the best bet to realise that goal.