India and Nepal share a robust bilateral relation. The bedrock of this relationship is the 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The opening lines of the Treaty reads: “The Government of India and the Government of Nepal, recognizing the ancient ties which have happily existed between the two countries; Desiring still further to strengthen and develop these ties and to perpetuate peace between the two countries; Have resolved therefore to enter into a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with each other”. Indo-Nepal relations derive their strength and salience from shared history, common cultural ethos, and long years of close and intense people-to-people contacts facilitated by open borders. The foreign policy of both the countries is driven by the principle of Non-Alignment.
Recently, KP Sharma Oli was elected as the Prime Minister of Nepal. The Indian PM Narendra Modi congratulated and extended his wishes to newly appointed Prime Minister. In a message of Indian PM sent to Oli through India’s Ambassador to Nepal, Modi expressed his hope that Nepal would gain stability, economic development and prosperity under PM Oli leadership. The message also noted that Indian PM Modi will give high emphasis on further enhancing the age-old relations between Nepal and India being based on trust, goodwill and mutual confidence. In doing so, India is ready to extend cooperation for the development standing with Nepali people and Nepal government.
The recent visit of India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to Nepal has further provided a boost to the strategic relationship between the two countries. This visit was significant as it was the first high level visit from India after completion of historic three tier elections in Nepal. Swaraj hailed the leaders for successfully holding the elections in Nepal and discussed enhancing bilateral cooperation and taking the age-old and historical partnership between Nepal and India forward. Swaraj had said that the Nepal-India relationship is of such a nature that no excuse was needed to visit each other.
Swaraj was the first senior Indian leader to visit Nepal after the conclusion of elections to local bodies, provincial assemblies and federal parliament. For the first time in Indo-Nepal relations, a sitting Indian Foreign Minister visited Nepal before the new PM paid an official visit to India.
In what can be understood as a development that further boosts the relations between the two countries, newly appointed Nepal PM Oli has said that he is keen on updating Indo-Nepal ties with regard to review and establishment of special provisions and dealings. “We have great connectivity with India and an open border. All that’s fine and we’ll increase connectivity even further,” read Oli’s recent statement.
India and Nepal also have a strong military cooperation. The Indian Army is one of the major suppliers of military gear to Nepal, including lethal and non-lethal equipment. This cooperation in the military sphere was further boosted by the visit of Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat to Nepal to attend a function being organized by the Nepal Army to mark the Army Day. Nepal’s newly-appointed defence minister Ishwor Pokharel signed an agreement to launch Surya Kiran Nepal-India Military Joint Exercise which will include training on jungle warfare, anti-terrorism combat as well as disaster response activities.
The two countries share a robust trade relationship. In terms of trade, India occupies a prominent place for Nepal. The treaty Nepal signed with India in 1996 and amended in 2009 is its most important in terms of trade volume. Except for some items under quantitative restrictions, the trade treaty puts Nepal in a unilateral duty-free trade regime with India, which accounted for more than 60 percent of Nepal’s total trade in the financial year. 2015-16. According to figures provided by the Ministry of External Affairs India, Nepal’s exports to India since 1996 have grown more than eleven times and bilateral trade more than seven times; the bilateral trade that was 29.8% of total external trade of Nepal in year 1995-96 has reached 61.2% in 2015- 16. The bilateral trade grew from Indian Rs. 1,755 crores in 1995-96 to IRs.32294 Crores (US$ 4.8 billion) in 2015-16. Indian firms are the biggest investors in Nepal, accounting for about 40% of the total approved foreign direct investments.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor