Nepal-India relation is now back on track. The bilateral ties of the two nations were strained in 2019 and 2020 when they had published their new political maps. It appeared that the diplomatic impasse is unlikely to be overcome soon as the two neighbours clashed over the tricky territorial issue. As the continuous standoff would not serve the core interest of both countries, they realised the need for taking mending measures to normalise the relations nourished by shared culture, social exchanges and economic interactions since the distant past. The temporary deadlock came to end with detente and a series of reconciliatory gestures and trips. In the beginning, the southern neighbour sent high profile officials to hold talks with Nepal government. Their visits restored trust and created ground for pursuing meaningful negotiations to sort out substantive differences.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali’s recent visit to India should be seen in this broader perspective. Minister Gyawali participated in the Nepal-India Joint Commission meeting which was scheduled prior to the announcement of mid-term elections in Nepal. The Joint Commission has been the appropriate platform to discuss the whole gamut of bilateral issues and explore solution to them. During the Commission’s meeting, both sides deeply dwelt on the revision of the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty, implementation of the report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), sorting out the border dispute, addressing security concerns, building connectivity/infrastructure and boosting cooperation in the field of economy, trade and transit, energy and water resources, tourism and education, among others.
It was a matter of satisfaction that the two neighbours discussed opening the aviation and land routes that were closed due to the pandemic, expediting the process of handing over 11 sections of the Postal Highway and completing its three remaining sections and expanding the railway line from Kurtha to Bardibas. They also discussed starting the construction of Integrated Check Post at Bhairahawa border, four-lane road near the Mahakali River connecting with Indian national highways and cross-border economic zones. The two sides agreed to prepare the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, and discussed the construction of three motorable bridges on Mahakali River at Sirsa, Jhulaghat and Darchula, and reviewing both Transit and Railway and Trade Treaties.
In addition to building confidence and mutual understanding, India has shown its willingness to support Nepal to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. It has assured that it would give priority to Nepal when it comes to supplying anti-coronavirus vaccines. On January 4, India approved emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and the AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech. It also started vaccination campaign, inoculating health workers from Saturday. Though its domestically-developed vaccine is yet to pass final trial, it has been producing the jabs of Oxford University and AstraZeneca on a large scale. It is imperative that India should cooperate with Nepal in supplying these vaccines for essential sectors here as early as possible. The collective fight against the COVID-19 provides a new forum to enhance bilateral relations between the two nations. The rare medical support in the time of pandemic marks the gesture of true friendship that transcends the political differences and geopolitical interests.