Event ReportsPublished on Jul 19, 2017
Citizens of India and Nepal enjoy mutual rights of residence, freedom of movement, ownership of property, and can participate in each other’s industrial and economic development without discrimination.
With China’s new interest in Nepal, sources of tension in Indo-Nepal ties can’t be ruled out

India and Nepal now enjoy good relationship with mutual respect for each other. However, sources of tension in the India-Nepal relations cannot be ruled out in future with China trying to increase its penetration into Nepal, according to Dr. Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, Vice Chancellor, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata.

Participating in the discussion on ORF’s new report on: India’s Connectivity with its Himalayan Neighbours: Possibilities and Challenges, on 14 July, Dr. Chaudhury said India was concerned about China’s new interest in Nepal’s domestic politics and also about the Sagarmatha Friendship 2017 — the first joint China-Nepal ten-day military drill.

The discussion was organised on the occasion of the launch of the report. The report was scheduled to be released by the Ambassador of Nepal, Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyay, but he could not come because of some urgent engagement. The report was formally released by the Consul General of Nepal to Kolkata, Mr. Eaknarayan Aryal.

The report is part of the third phase of ORF’s connectivity studies which focused on India’s connectivity with Nepal and Bhutan including physical links, energy cooperation, trade and transit, and border management issues. Dr. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury of ORF spoke briefly about the highlights of the report. She talked about the field trips to Nepal and Bhutan undertaken by the researchers, the composition of the study and the policy recommendations that have been formulated on the basis of the research findings.

Speaking as a discussant, Dr. Chaudhury said China has been trying to make inroads in terms of influence into this region through economic support and infrastructural projects. Nepal now wants to have more border crossing points with China. Within Nepal, there exists other misperceptions regarding India, taking advantage of which the Chinese influence in Nepal is growing.

Dr. Chaudhury underlined the need for India to work upon the historical and civilisational linkages it shares with Nepal and embark upon cultural and educational diplomacy involving exchanges of students and investors who will facilitate a better understanding between India and Nepal to counter China influence.

He pointed out that India and Nepal share a special bond as the citizens of both countries can enjoy mutual rights of residence, freedom of movement, ownership of property in either country and can participate in each other’s industrial and economic development without any discrimination. Also, Nepal’s geostrategic position is a prominent factor, impacting India’s security perceptions. Nepal is regarded by India as the principal barrier between itself and China. As immediate neighbours, both countries have a stake in each other’s security, he said. He concluded by saying that not only bilateral but also regional connectivity is very important.

Mr. Eaknarayan Aryal delivered the special address. He stressed upon the close nature of the ties between India and Nepal and said that the report was a helpful one in drawing attention to the existing hurdles in trade and transit of Nepal, especially with third countries. He also raised the issue of impact on Nepal of the recently implemented Goods and Services Tax by the Indian government. Mr. Aryal pointed out that it would be useful to release the report in Nepal as well so that it could reach the policy makers in Kathmandu. His comments were echoed by Mr. Pema Tobgay, Vice Consul of Bhutan to Kolkata.

Earlier, delivering the introductory address, Prof. Rakhahari Chatterji, Advisor, ORF Kolkata and the research supervisor for the study on ‘Proximity to Connectivity’, pointed out that the report was both positive and positivist. The study was positive as it looked towards the development of a shared perspective for moving forward together while maintaining our identities and sovereignties. It was positivist as well in its focus on facts and not on their nuances or subjectivities. The study involved extensive field work comprising on-site inspection of infrastructure and meeting varieties of stakeholders.

Nepal’s Ambassador to India, Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyay, who was scheduled to launch the report, sent a message, describing the report “informative as well as purposeful,” containing “an undeniable message that better connectivity is vital in our sub-region in order to prosper together.” The ambassador also emphasised on the importance and usefulness of the study in sensitising policy makers and various stakeholders regarding the importance and urgency of enhanced connectivity between Nepal and India. He appreciated the fact that a follow-up report would also be published, taking care of the still existing research gaps as well as the impact of the report on subsequent ground realities.

The release programme concluded with an open discussion on the report.

This report is prepared by Pratnashree Basu, Junior Fellow and Sohini Bose, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata.

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