We are so close, yet it took 17 years, conceded Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to the fact that his was the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM. “This pinches, but let me assure you. It will not happen again.”
The visits may become more frequent but Modi’s contribution on Sunday was setting a new template for the relationship. He has unequivocally underlined that Nepal is sovereign to take its decisions; that Nepal should decide the pace at which and issues for which it needs India’s support.
He adopted the role of a concerned advisor but did not prescribe; he gave a glimpse of the potential roadmap which can lift both Nepal and India’s economy.
And he reached out to all of Nepal’s political forces — emphasising democracy which was music to the ears of traditional parliamentary parties; lauding Maoist transition from war to peace and endorsing the agenda of federal democratic republic they championed first; and emphasising on an ‘inclusive constitution’ which pleased Madhesi forces.
At an Indian embassy reception right after the speech, Nepal’s power elite could not stop gushing about the speech.
Shashank Koirala, son of the legendary democratic leader BP Koirala said, “This is a game changer. Nehru operated with a certain regional doctrine, which appeared to be divide and rule. But Modi has recognised that without the region, India cannot grow.”
Khimlal Devkota of the Maoists said Modi had cleared all the ‘confusion’ that persisted about Indian intentions. A top Madhesi leader said, “The ball now is in Nepal’s court to build this relationship.” And a top Nepal Army general called the speech ‘absolutely magnetic’.
Baburam Bhattarai, Maoist ideologue and former PM, tweeted Modi had won the ‘hearts and minds’ with his ‘magical address’.