It seems that PM Narendra Modi has picked up the exclusive religious connect between India and Nepal to rejuvenate the souring ties between two neighboring nations.
It seems that PM Narendra Modi has picked up the exclusive religious connect between India and Nepal to rejuvenate the souring ties between two neighboring nations. On Friday, the prime minister flagged off a direct bus service between Janakpur in Nepal and Ayodhya in India – two key places in the Ramayana tourism circuit. He also announced a development project for Janakpur, and made a key observation in a speech thereafter – partners should be choosen carefully.
The prime minister also paid visit to Janakpuri’s Janki Temple where he said that the ties between two countries are beyond politics and diplomacy, and are bound by ‘Dev-Niti’.
There’s no doubt Nepal and India are old allies who share close historical, cultural and religious links. However, the ties suffered a massive blow when India blocked trade with Nepal for five months in 2015. India’s act deprived the country of certain key staples and fuel and medical supplies. As Modi started his visit on Friday, hashtags like #BlockadeWasCrimeMrModi and #ModiNotWelcomed-InNepal were already trending on Twitter.
The Nepali netizens demanded that the Indian prime minister apologize for the 135-day blockade from September 2015 to February 2016.
In the aftermath of 2015 incident, the Kathmandu has been seen as being keen to reduce its dependence on India, and therefore, is now open to China’s assistance. Nepal and China have openly supported the construction of a trans-Himalayan trilateral economic corridor. On the other hand, India is concerned about China’s growing presence in its neighborhood.
While Modi is undoubtedly concerned about New Delhi’s ties with Kathmandu, his moves will also have an ostensible affect on elections back home. The prime minister’s act of connecting the birthplaces of Ram and Sita is set to appeal voters in Ayodhya and neighbouring constituency.
The prime minister is also scheduled to travel to Muktinath temple, a revered site for the Sri Vaishnava sect, which holds a significance results in parts of Karnataka.
However, Modi seems to be trying his best to heal wounds after 2015 economic blockade. On the economic front, Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Oli is also scheduled inaugurate the Arun-III, a 900 MW power project.
Modi’s visit comes a month after Oli had visited New Delhi. As per some experts, the back-to-back visits are aimed to “rebuild” at bridging the trust deficit between the two countries.
Modi and Oli will also deliberate on implementation of the ambitious rail project to link Kathmandu with Raxaul in Bihar and connecting landlocked Nepal with river transport system with India, apart from several other key connectivity projects. India had offered these projects last month during Oli’s visit to New Delhi. India’s efforsts were seen as a move to counter China’s efforts to expand influence over Kathmandu by offering various infrastructure projects.
Clearly, Nepal stands to gain from India and China’s power struggle. It remains to be seen how much Modi is able to make from this visit to the Himalayan nation.