Background: As close neighbours, India and Nepal have fostered a unique friendship and collaborative relationship marked by open borders and deep-rooted people-to-people kinship alongside extensive cultural linkages, dating back to the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Bilateral relationships forged via trade and investment, culture, defence and energy cooperation have resulted in reciprocal national prosperity and regional advancement for decades. However, Nepal is sandwiched between the growing powers of India and China, where regional vulnerabilities and pro-Beijing regimes have resulted in an increase in territorial disputes and a decline in bilateral cooperation and collaboration.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” has become Prime Minister for the third time after leaving his previous coalition and gaining the backing of the Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist Party (UML). Prachanda’s government, with the backing of the preceding PM K P Sharma Oli, reaffirmed that Nepal is looking to maintain equi-proximity relationships with both India and China, with the nation intending to focus on containing inflation, maintaining reserves, raising capital expenditures, narrowing the trade deficit, and lowering interest rates as part of its national agenda. However, there exists contradicting rhetoric as KP Oli continues to advocate for the recovery of national territory claimed by India, referencing the 2015 territorial disputes. KP Sharma Oli previously aimed to build ties with China as an alternative to Nepal’s long-standing tight trading ties with India. Furthermore, under KP Oli, India’s bilateral ties with Nepal were strained as India inaugurated an 80-kilometre-long strategically significant route connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand in 2020. From India’s point of view, the continuation of the former Sher Bahadur Deuba-led administration had been the optimum environment for developing bilateral prosperity and partnership, with a decline in China’s looming influence. Within this context, the Nepali Congress had long had links with India, and under Deuba’s leadership, India-Nepal ties began to improve rapidly and significantly.

With rising tensions in India-Nepal relations due to border disputes, China’s growing regional influence, and the need to strengthen collaboration and cooperation, this webinar will investigate the future trajectory of the Indo-Nepal relationship, particularly in relation to Beijing’s influence alongside economic and political ties. 

Moderator: Sharon Susan Koshy

Summary of Discussions

Within Prachanda’s regime, Kathmandu and Delhi are pushing for a cordial and collaborative relationship with regard to territorial conflict and disputes. Thus, both nations must convene, resolve and mutually investigate conflict surrounding disputed territories, in order to prevent the disintegration of historically strengthened bilateral relationships. India and Nepal must look to enhance bilateral relations within the three tenets of mutual growth. Firstly, there must be a focus on the energy sector, where the new government seeks to bolster energy trade ties with India, primarily in regard to clean energy and climate change concerns. Secondly, defence cooperation must continue to act as the bedrock of robust bilateral relations, due to India’s substantial defence presence, especially in equipment and training in Nepal. Thirdly, revitalising mutual and global connectivity is of paramount importance, particularly within the need to strengthen the socioeconomic rubric of Nepal. India and Nepal must seek to emphasise and prioritise these aspirations in order to ameliorate mutual relations, especially due to China’s deepening presence within Nepal. India and Nepal must look to carry the existing bilateral relationship to greater heights. This must be particularly emphasised within strong and significant trade and economic relations, technological initiatives, tourism, regional and mutual development and more, which seeks to transcend time and culture.

Key Takeaways

  • Bilateral collaboration and cooperation between India and Nepal is vital in order to tackle regional and geopolitical conflict, where mechanisms must be brought together to ease territorial disputes and seek engagement at the bilateral level. Thus, mutual relations must transition into prioritising growth and connectedness, instead of highlighting the politicisation of bilateral relationships especially those with decades of shared history.
  • India and Nepal must prioritise the need for enhancing connectivity in Nepal on a regional and international scale. Hence, India and Nepal must seek to concretise present and future mutual development projects, with declining prominence upon the competitive game angle within the geopolitical fabric.
  • Dynamic bilateral energy and trade relations are pivotal to enhancing the India-Nepal relationship. Thus, There is a need to focus on clean energy, renewable resources such as hydropower, resource sharing and management alongside initiatives targeting climate change. Hence, shared history, unrivalled geopolitical closeness and mutual energy interests must continue to strengthen the bilateral relationship.
Avatar photo
+ posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *