Outline the importance of the India- Nepal bilateral relations. What are the major tensions between the countries?
India-Nepal relations are based on multidimensional linkages. Acknowledging each other’s importance, both countries have described the relationship as ‘special’ on various occasions. However, the India-Nepal bilateral relationship is currently at its lowest ebb due to anti-India sentiments in Nepal, in reaction to the perceived political interference by India.
- People to people contact: Open border system (bordering 5 India states- Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Sikkim and Bihar) enable the citizens of these countries to cross over the border and make socio-cultural, social, and economicand political ties.
- Religious:Over 80 percent Hindu population and Buddhist locations in both countries integrate the people.
- Geographical: Investing in Nepal’s hydropower projects benefits India by providing surplus power and strengthening the economic linkages. E.g., Arun-3 Hydro Project.
- Strategic: Nepal lies between India and China along with Bhutan in Himalayan frontiers. It acts as a buffer state for India against Chinese aggression.
Apart from these significant cooperation areas between India and Nepal, these countries have recently faced major tensions. These are as follows with their reasons-
- Anti-India feeling: It is defined as a mindset that regards India as a country acting against the interests of Nepal and is increasingly manifested in street demonstrations, articles in the media, protests against Indian delegations etc.
- Territorial disputes: In 2020, ties between the two soured after India and Nepal — one after the other — published maps in which they included Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura region in their side of the territory.
- Trust deficit: It is largely affected the implementation of various Indian-aided projects in Nepal. Even some Indian investment projects had been attacked. Indian notes of higher denominations such as INR 500 or INR 2,000 are still banned in Nepal.
The unwavering commitment to the principles of peaceful coexistence, sovereign equality, and understanding of each other’s aspirations and sensitivities has been the firm foundation of Indo-Nepal bilateral relations. And mutual trust based on these foundational values will strengthen it further and lower the tensions.