After a five-day official visit, Madhav Kumar Nepal left India on Saturday, secure in the knowledge that the growing dissonance inside and outside his coalition government in Nepal will not affect the Indian commitment to underwrite his leadership in the difficult months that lie ahead. For the moment, at least.
India remains concerned about divisions between Mr. Nepal and the Koiralas — the first family of his principal coalition partner, the Nepali Congress — and within the Prime Minister’s own Unified Marxists-Leninists. But on the principal faultline that divides Nepali politics — the Maoists vs. the UML-NC combine — New Delhi reiterated its strong support for the latter, weighing in behind the coalition’s tough new stand against integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army. Even though the message on integration was not conveyed in so many words, Mr. Nepal and his advisers took the Indian insistence on the need to preserve the “professional character” of the Nepali Army to mean precisely that. On his part, Mr. Nepal went out of his way to assure his hosts that his country would not be used against India in any way.
Apart from the political significance of the visit, India and Nepal on Saturday initialled the revised Treaty of Trade and Agreement of Cooperation to Control Unauthorised Trade, which will contribute to further enhancing bilateral trade.
India has also promised to beef up Nepal’s road and rail links in the underdeveloped Terai region and agreed to the utilisation of the Visakhapatnam port for the movement of transit traffic to and from Nepal. It will also favourably consider the request for usage of an additional sea port on its western coast. India will invest Rs. 1,485 crore in strengthening Nepal’s rail and road linkages in the Terai region.
Further trade promotion measures will be examined by the Commerce Secretary-level Inter-Governmental Committee, which has been asked to meet in two months. In a joint statement issued following the visit of the Nepali Prime Minister, which concluded on Saturday, both countries agreed to wrap up a new Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and sign it at an early date.
On the security side, given the open border, each side said it would not allow its territory to be used for any activity against the other country. The Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues and the Home Secretaries will meet within two months to address all security-related issues. India agreed to Nepal’s request for building a Police Academy at an estimated cost of Rs.320 crore, besides doubling the number of slots for training government of Nepal officials, including police personnel.