An editorial in the Kathmandu Post titled Koirala’s visit.
It has become a tradition. India is the first official destination for every successive prime minister. China is the second one. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has also decided not to break the practice. Postponing his medical visit to Bangkok, Koirala is embarking on a three day visit to India seeking economic and political support for the newly established democratic government. Reportedly, Koirala is formally requesting for a special economic assistance package. Apart from this, Koirala would also seek India’s blessing for the success of the peace talks with the Maoists. Kathmandu wants Delhi to back the UN role in disarming the Maoists, if the need be. Koirala must be in an upbeat mood because Indian newspapers have already announced that India is planning a “mega economic” package for Nepal. The visit of the prime minister is, therefore, expected to garner support for the economic development and political stability.
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Meanwhile, people who are following the Prime Minister’s India visit are skeptical about the trip and any possible agreements. They are tired of seeing Nepal lose to India in such agreements. India promises attractive packages of help and cooperation on paper but always exploits our compulsions (‘India-lockedness’) in practice.
Take a survey among Nepalis about their impression of India. The result will be that an overwhelming majority of respondents will dislike the Establishment India if not hate outright. Yes, people to people relationship is good between Nepal and India. There is a huge fan following of Bollywood stars in Nepali cities and Hindi films are popular among the mass of all ages. The influence of cricketing icons can also be felt very strongly in the pitches of Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal. Yes the rhetorical talk of cultural ties never ceases to exist. But Nepali people also do not forget the obstacles India creates every now and then on our borders, in their customs points and in many other fields. One day India talks about helping Nepal economically and the next it announces additional customs duties to Nepali exports. Such has been the Indian behavior towards Nepal all the time in the past.
It might be because of our inefficiency to deal with the issues but has Nepal always found itself losing something precious to Indians during bilateral talks. No one has forgotten the Tanakpur scandal that happened while Koirala was in power in the 90s. That is exactly why Members of Parliament yesterday warned PM Koirala not to make any controversial deal with the government of India during the visit, Himalayan Times reports. They suggested that the PM sought Indian support for the proclamation of the House of Representatives and achievements of the people’s movement.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has drafted a special proposal, which will point out the areas of support for Nepal. However, it seems that India has already assessed Nepal’s needs, and has made up its mind on how to go ahead with it. The Times of India (April 27) mentioned that India wanted to support Nepal to prevent it from becoming a failed state due to fiscal turmoil. India is reportedly considering huge cash and credit infusion to check balance of payment situation, rescheduling of loans, concessionary rates in oil supplies and support on communication equipment. The Indian assessment of Nepal’s needs is definitely valid and praiseworthy. However, there are many other issues in which Nepal should seek India’s cooperation.
There is no dispute that Nepal needs a good rapport with India to progress economically, and maintain peace. Koirala should also thank India for helping to bring the Maoists to the peace-talk-table, and exert formidable pressure on the king to bow down to the public demand. However, Koirala should not forget the issues of construction of dams in the bordering areas that inundate thousands of hectares of arable land every year on the Nepali side and displace hundreds of thousands. The quarantine check posts at the Indian borders have been causing serious problems to Nepali farmers who export agricultural produce. The four percent duty on imports, which has badly hurt Nepali exports, should be annulled. Similarly, Koirala should seek India’s support to control cross-border criminal activities and smuggling. There are also issues such as aviation, tourism, hydropower, transit road to China which need to be addressed. Harnessing these sectors would benefit both the countries.