Signs of a thaw in India-Nepal ties

The visit of Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli to India a few weeks ago did not help break the ice
India-Nepal relations have been cool since Kathmandu began to accuse New Delhi two months ago of imposing an unofficial blockade, and indirectly blaming it for the prolonged agitation in the Terai belt against the new Constitution which the Madhesis of the region believe leaves them enfeebled. The first signs of thaw came on Sunday when the Nepal authorities arrested a bunch of anti-India agitators who were seeking to organise a strike in Kathmandu against the alleged unofficial blockade.
On the same day the Nepal authorities sent back the 13 jawans of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) who had crossed into the Nepal side chasing smugglers at the border in Nepal’s Jhapa district.
The shortage of goods in Nepal following massive Madhesi protests that stopped Indian trucks carrying provisions, including petrol and medicines, has led to a spurt in smuggling. True, the visit of Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli to India a few weeks ago did not help break the ice. Mr Oli received the same message, in essence, that New Delhi has been recommending from the beginning — that the political elite begin negotiations with the Madhesis on those aspects of the Constitution that the latter are uncomfortable with, and resolve the matter internally, and not blame India. But now Nepal’s gestures on Sunday are concrete signs that Kathmandu does not wish bilateral ties to be damaged.
It may be a good starting point for India to publicly acknowledge the positive moves made by Nepal, and nudge it toward speeding up the negotiation process with the Madhesis. Even if the Oli government wishes to take that route, it is possible that not only his allies in government but also others in Parliament may not have entirely shed their reluctance to talk to the Madhesis. Nevertheless, if Kathmandu shows clear intent, the Indian side could also be persuaded to use its goodwill with various elements in Nepal to work on a negotiated solution.
When the fuel shortage began to bite as a result of the Madhesi protests scaring Indian trucks off, Kathmandu showed its annoyance against India by working out a fuel supply agreement with China. But New Delhi didn’t permit itself to be unnerved. It continued with its oft-stated position advocating meaningful discussions with the Madhesis. Soon it became evident that getting fuel supplies from third countries may alleviate the acute petrol position for a time but won’t bring peace.
India and Nepal are of great importance to one another. It is a mix of geography, culture, history and politics. The compact of these four elements makes up the unique relationship. Both sides should keep this in mind regardless of the colour of the government in the two countries.

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( Source : deccan chronicle )
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