Nepal Con­nect

Bi­lat­eral fuel pipe­line ex­em­pli­fies the turn­around in New Delhi-Kath­mandu ties

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Epiphany Of Ideas -

In a big de­vel­op­ment for In­dia-Nepal ties, the two coun­tries in­au­gu­rated South Asia’s first cross-bor­der fuel pipe­line, help­ing Kath­mandu cut fuel prices by Rs 2 per litre on ac­count of re­duced trans­porta­tion cost. The 69 km Moti­hari-Am­lekhganj pipe­line project was com­pleted 15 months ahead of sched­ule and can trans­port two mil­lion tonnes of petro-prod­ucts an­nu­ally to the land­locked Hi­malayan na­tion. This holds out three pos­i­tives for the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship.

First, In­dia is fi­nally tak­ing its de­vel­op­ment com­mit­ments to Nepal se­ri­ously. An im­pres­sion had taken hold in Nepal that In­dian projects are marred by in­or­di­nate de­lays. But the be­fore-time com­ple­tion of the transna­tional pipe­line raises hopes that other pend­ing bi­lat­eral projects too will be ex­pe­dited. Sec­ond, the dis­as­trous 2015 block­ade had led to mas­sive fuel short­ages in Nepal and soured re­la­tions be­tween New Delhi and Kath­mandu. The pipe­line will help en­sure that such short­ages don’t re­cur. Hence, it is a per­ma­nent sym­bol of In­di­aNepal co­op­er­a­tion that is bound to gen­er­ate much good­will in Kath­mandu. Third, that the pipe­line was in­au­gu­rated just as Chi­nese for­eign min­is­ter Wang Yi was wrap­ping up his visit there shows that In­dia has changed tack in its Nepal pol­icy and is fo­cussing on de­liv­er­ables.

This is smart be­cause forcing Kath­mandu to choose be­tween New Delhi and Bei­jing will likely drive Nepal into China’s corner. In­stead, the In­dian leadership should be con­fi­dent about the deep cul­tural and peo­ple-to-peo­ple re­la­tions that In­dia and Nepal share, and fo­cus on grow­ing these nat­u­ral syn­er­gies. The Modi govern­ment has made In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood a for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity. Given that In­dia’s re­la­tions with Pak­istan are cur­rently hos­tile, mov­ing ahead with sub-re­gional co­op­er­a­tion as in the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, In­dia, Nepal) for­mat makes sense. The In­dia-Nepal part­ner­ship has to be a key pil­lar of this ap­proach.

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