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A new beginning with Nepal

Pragmatism has finally taken root in Delhi and Kathmandu — project implementation will be the test
its 250-year-old monarchy and which has left the Nepal Rastra ducts pipeline, a project for which
emerged as a federal republic. Bank holding a stock of Indian cur- the MOU between the two govern-
During these decades, political in- rency, long-pending hydel projects ments was signed in 2004. It took
stability prevailed with 25 Prime like Pancheshwar, resumption of another three years for the Indian
Ministers in 27 years! the SAARC summit process which Oil Corporation and the Nepal Oil
Last year, 2017, was a year of remains stalled since 2016 after Corporation to sign the follow-up
Rakesh Sood elections in Nepal. Local body Jaish-e-Mohammed militants at- MOU, eight years to convert it into
elections were held after a gap of tacked the Army base in Uri, and an agreement and three more to
20 years. This was followed by the the need for an inclusive political begin the works. Its implementa-

t is a long-standing tradition elections under the new constitu- process, do not find any mention. tion within the 30-month time-
that Nepali Prime Ministers tion for the national parliament Yet it is a step forward from Mr. frame will require proper project
make Delhi the first foreign port (the House of Representatives and Oli’s last visit in February 2016 monitoring by both sides.
of call after taking over. The only the National Assembly) and the se- when there was no Joint State- More examples abound with

exception was Maoist leader Push- ven Provincial Assemblies which ment. There is a realisation in Del- the hydro-electric sector being the
pa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ in concluded earlier this year. Final- but Mr. Oli’s nine-month tenure in hi that cultural and historical ties prime example. Misperceptions
2008 who visited China first and ly, on February 15, Mr. Oli began 2015-16 was marked by acrimo- between the people in both coun- about the unequal agreements re-
found his tenure cut short months his second tenure as Prime Minis- nious exchanges. India’s openly tries are important but just as for lating to the Kosi barrage (1954)
later when his coalition collapsed, ter. Unlike the first tenure, which stated reservations on the new India, globalisation offers new and Gandak barrage (1959) have
forcing him to resign and adding a began on the sour note of the Mad- constitution in support of the Mad- openings to Nepal too. China’s am- grown over the years preventing
touch of superstition to the tradi- hesi agitation against the new con- hesi cause and the economic dis- bitious Belt and Road Initiative off- any development in this sector.
tion. Prime Minister K.P. Sharma stitution, this time he has come to ruptions caused by the undeclared ers Nepal an option that may end Nepal’s installed hydel capacity is
Oli maintained the tradition dur- power with convincing election blockade had fuelled anti-Indian- up carrying unacceptable baggage less than 700 MW while it sits on a
ing his state visit to India last week. victories. ism which Mr. Oli cleverly exploit- but at least appears attractive at hydel potential of over 80,000
Perhaps not on account of super- In the local body elections, Mr. ed by donning the mantle of na- first. MW and has to import electricity
stition but because as a pragmatic Oli’s party — the Communist Party tionalism and making significant from India during the lean season.
politician, he knows which contro- of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leni- electoral gains. Last year, on De- Project implementation Given that over 60% of the Ganga
versies are best avoided. His ear- nist), or UML — won the Mayor/ cember 19, when the UML’s elec- For decades, India has been Ne- waters come from Nepal’s rivers
lier nine-month tenure as PM in Council Chair’s position in 294 out tion victory was clear, Mr. Oli visit- pal’s most significant development (Sarda, Ghagar, Rapti, Gandak,
2015-16 had seen relations with In- of the 753 local bodies. In most of ed Rasuwagadhi on the partner. Yet the pace of project im- Bagmati, Kamala, Kosi and Mechi)
dia hit a new low, and it made emi- the seven provinces, UML leaders Nepal-Tibet border and an- plementation has been slow, lead- and 80% of these flows take place
nent sense to begin his second are Chief Ministers. Together with nounced that it would be upgrad- ing to significant time and cost ov- in monsoon months, the impera-
term on a positive note. From all the Maoists with whom the UML ed as a road and rail hub between er-runs. To be fair, both India and tive for effective water manage-
accounts, the visit went well but it had announced an electoral al- China and Nepal. The message Nepal share the responsibility for ment for both irrigation and pow-
will take pragmatism and patient liance last year, Mr. Oli has a con- was not lost, and the following day this and political instability in Ne- er generation is evident, and yet
nurturing on both sides to restore vincing majority of 174 in the 275- Mr. Modi telephoned Mr. Oli to pal hardly helped. this sector has languished for de-
the trust and confidence. strong House of Representatives. congratulate him on his election The idea of four Integrated cades.
In the Upper House, which has a success. This was followed up with Check Posts (ICP) on the India-Ne- Pragmatism led to the visit tak-
Contentious years strength of 59, the alliance has 42 a couple more phone calls and Fo- pal border to facilitate movement ing place and the unscripted one-
Nepal’s political transition began seats. All this puts Mr. Oli in a com- reign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s vi- of goods, vehicles and people was on-one meeting between the two
nearly three decades ago when it fortable position at home. He is sit to Kathmandu to convey an in- mooted 15 years ago and an MOU leaders would have helped in
adopted a new constitution in shrewd enough to realise that his vitation even before he was sworn signed in 2005. While preparation clearing the air about key con-
1990 which ushered in multiparty campaign rhetoric of Nepali na- in as Prime Minister. of surveys and project reports cerns on both sides. What is now
democracy. However, stability tionalism with overt shades of an- Compared to the Joint State- moved slowly on the Indian side, needed is effective delivery on the
eluded Nepal with a spreading ti-Indianism needed to be modi- ment issued in August 2014 at the acquisition of land by the Nepali pending projects, the remaining
Maoist insurgency. In the process, fied, and by observing the time of Mr. Modi’s visit, the latest authorities got held up leading to ICPs, the five railway connections,
the gains of democracy were erod- tradition of visiting Delhi, he was one is much shorter and talks delayed construction. As a result, postal road network in the Terai
ed. After a decade-long insurgen- signalling the shift. about strengthening relations on only the Raxaul-Birgunj ICP has and the petroleum pipeline so that
cy, which claimed 15,000 lives, fol- the basis of “equality, mutual been completed and was inaugu- connectivity is enhanced and the
lowed by a reconciliation, an A rethink in Delhi trust, respect and benefit”. Diffi- rated last week. During this time, idea of ‘inclusive development
interim constitution was intro- In New Delhi too, there has been a cult issues, including a review of the cost of the project went up and prosperity’ assumes reality.
duced and the ground prepared growing realisation that time had the contentious 1950 Treaty, re- fourfold.
for yet another exercise in consti- come to make a new beginning cruitment of Nepali nationals in The two Prime Ministers also Rakesh Sood is a former Ambassador to
tution drafting. This seven-year ex- with Nepal. Prime Minister Naren- the Gurkha regiments of the In- witnessed the ground breaking ce- Nepal and currently Distinguished Fellow
ercise finally produced a new con- dra Modi’s visit in August 2014 had dian Army, resolving the fallout of remony of the Motihari-Amlekh- at the Observer Research Foundation.
stitution in 2015. Nepal abolished marked a new high in relations, the 2016 demonetisation exercise gunj cross-border petroleum pro- E-mail: