Nepal’s prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda’s visit has done much to allay apprehensions in New Delhi that the new dispensation in Kathmandu may tilt towards China over India. Such fears were raised when the new PM went to Beijing, skipping New Delhi. Later, Prachanda insisted that he had only gone there for the Olympic Games.
However, Prachanda’s five-day sojourn in India has put things back on an even keel after a somewhat fractious year or so in Indo-Nepal relations. The Nepal PM has clearly made the transition from a revolutionary to a statesman. He has understood the importance of relations with India that goes beyond just cultural and traditional aspects. Whether it is trade, transit, security, infrastructure and development, New Delhi is vital to Nepal’s growth. India has just announced a hefty package to the flood-hit in Nepal, something that the landlocked mountain nation is in desperate need of.
Prachanda has spoken of a review of the 1950 treaty between India and Nepal. This is a good sign in relations between the two countries. India needs to talk to Nepal about this because the Kosi river treaty has made it urgent. The 1954 water treaty has come into focus once again. For India, there is much at stake keeping ties with Nepal strong. For one, there are at least five million people from that country working here. We have a porous border that makes this all the more worrying. Prachanda has clearly made all the right moves. He cannot have forgotten what happened when the late Rajiv Gandhi fell out with the administration in Kathmandu. He shut off diesel supplies that bought the country to a halt.
Prachanda has also spoken about hydropower cooperation and Indian investment in Nepal. Both these are very much in India’s favour. But, Kathmandu has not been very clear on its foreign policy strategy as of now. The new PM needs to articulate this. Otherwise, there will be lingering doubts about Kathmandu’s tilt. As of now, going from Prachanda’s statements, New Delhi does not have much to fear.