Interaction with Visiting Delegation of MP's from Nepal
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On 29 March 2023, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organised an interaction with a visiting delegation of 18 Members of Parliament (MP) from Nepal. Brig Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow & Research Coordinator VIF gave the introductory remarks, followed by short presentations by Brig Rahul Bhonsle and Dr Nihar Nayak.

India and Nepal have deep historical and cultural ties. The people-to-people relations between the two countries have multiple facets to it. From a sentimental and emotional perspective, the two countries have a ‘Roti Beti ka Rishta’ or family ties. India and Nepal are two well-established democracies, and in IR theory, it is considered that two democracies will always avoid conflict or confrontation with one another, thereby making them natural allies. The two countries also have a structural relationship based on close security engagement, in art and films, cultural similarity, sports and other soft power associations.

There are several unique features of the relationship that India and Nepal share. The countries have, as already brought out, deep, undeniable cultural and civilisational affinity that go back centuries. Religion and pilgrimage are among the most prominent links connecting the two countries, even today. Another unique feature is the shared open border between India and Nepal. The visa-free entry not only shows bonhomie and trust between the two countries but also economic and people-to-people integration in terms of migration, employment and commercial activity. Even before the India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950, there was a natural flow of people across the border. Approximately 8 million Nepalese citizens reside in India, and nearly 600 thousand Indians live in Nepal.

Nepal is one of the most significant development partners of India. This partnership started with the construction of Gauchar Airport in Kathmandu in 1951. Major energy sector projects like Trishuli Hydropower Projects, Pokhara Hydropower projects, and Kataiya Powerhouse made way for continued partnership between the two countries, leading to the commissioning of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline in 2019. India also works on small development projects in Nepal to create a more robust infrastructure in the country.

There are, however, several challenges in terms of engagement between the two countries. One is that frequent FDI policy changes in Nepal, owing to the frequent change of governments in the Himalayan nation. The ever-changing economic and trade policies create a disparity in the possible investment opportunities in Nepal and make it to be a high-risk investment destination. The infrastructure and banking structural challenges in Nepal make it difficult to have a robust long-term commercial engagement. As per the Nepalese perception, they get limited port access from India, which creates a hurdle in more effective bilateral commercial engagement. Another significant challenge is the scarcity of skilled labour in Nepal and the lengthy process of hiring foreign workers. Creating a more skilled workforce and higher training opportunities will help create better employment opportunities and attract more businesses in Nepal.

Media plays a crucial role in ensuring cordial relationships between countries. The way the media portrays the neighbourhood will directly impact the public perception and interpersonal connection between the people and the governments. Policy sensitivity is a cornerstone of the relationship between countries. The role of Members of Parliament and their approach to the neighbourhood becomes crucial as that directly affects the relations and in streamlining the economic engagement, people-to-people interaction and creating harmony.

Event Date 
March 29, 2023

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