PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has concluded an important visit to Nepal, where he tapped all the right nodes of the relationship -- political, economic and cultural -- to turn around ties, which had begun to languish over the last few years. The visit seems to have caught the imagination of the people of Nepal. Partly, this was because Mr. Modi managed to connect with the common person through his carefully choreographed visit to the ancient Pashupatinath temple, and a generous announcement of donations to give the ancient place of worship an essential facelift. The prime minister's visit also created a buzz because he seemed to have fresh ideas, born out of a vision that Indo-Nepal ties can flourish only when they are connected with South Asia's promising future. Mr. Modi has re-emphasised that bilateral ties with neighbours must promote the overall well-being of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
In his bid to reinvigorate the relationship, Mr. Modi underscored his penchant for using energy as an instrument to reinforce political bonds. During his stay, India pledged to bolster Nepal's energy security by agreeing to establish a two-phase products pipeline, which will eventually carry petroleum products from Raxaul in Bihar to Kathmandu. More significantly, discussions have been held to link Nepal with a gas pipeline from India. If that happens, it would lock India and Nepal into a genuine strategic embrace, opening up the possibility of Nepal benefiting from gas that India might in the future procure from a variety of overseas destinations, including Iran and Turkmenistan. India's energy pledge to Nepal follows a decision to build a pipeline channeling diesel and kerosene to Pakistan from its refinery in Bhatinda. Besides, India is planning to send gas, transported from Dahej in Gujarat to Jalandhar, before it is sent on to Pakistan. Nepal would be one of the beneficiaries if the project fructifies; it could also be connected with the futuristic Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline networks. Following improved atmospherics resulting from Mr. Modi's visit, India and Nepal decided to “once and for all” resolve the pending Nepal-India boundary issues, including differences over Kalapani and Susta. Yet, both sides have their task cut out to remove the remaining impediments in the relationship. New Delhi and Kathmandu need to quickly revise the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950, so that the archaic “big-brother” tag on India is swiftly removed. Besides, the two have to learn to work together with China, which has the political heft and the economic surplus to make solid investments in the Himalayan republic.
© The Hindu.