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Nepal Foreign Minister Gyawali says R&AW chief Goel’s Kathmandu visit led to better ties

Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali

Signalling that India-Nepal relations are back on track, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Nepalese Minister for Foreign Affairs told his country’s Parliamentary International Relations Committee that Samant Goel, chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) had visited Kathmandu as an envoy of the Indian Prime Minster.

"Many things have moved forward since this visit, and we are already seeing the results," Gyawali told the committee. The Nepal Foreign Minister’s statement comes days before his visit to New Delhi to meet his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar and also chair a meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission. Reports in the Nepali media say that Gyawali told the parliamentary committee that there was nothing opaque about the R&AW chief’s trip as Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's press advisor had issued a press statement after Goel's visit.

After almost a year of rancour, India and Nepal are at work to restore bilateral relations. Just last week, the India-Nepal Inter-Governmental Sub-Committee held a two-day meeting in Kathmandu to look at ways to strengthen trade and economic ties between the two countries. Sharing the news, the Indian embassy in Nepal tweeted: "The two-day meeting of the India-Nepal Inter-Governmental Sub Committee on Trade and Transit commenced today.

This meeting, being held at Joint Secretary level, would review and set the way forward for further enhancing bilateral trade and economic ties." Gyawali's India visit is in reciprocation to visits by R&AW chief Samant Kumar Goel, Indian Army chief General MM Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Kathmandu over the last two months. Gyawali will be the senior-most Nepalese leader to visit India since relations between the two country’s soured in May, when Kathmandu issued a new political map that included Indian territories.

The map was issued after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road connecting India to Kailash Mansarovar in China, which Nepal claimed passed through its territory. The Indian army chief had said that Nepal was acting at China's behest.

After months of wrangling, Oli greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on India’s Independence Day in August and Modi offered to continue support to Nepal in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Once again, in September, Oli greeted Modi on his birthday and tweeted: "Warm greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji on the auspicious occasion of your birthday…. We will continue working closely together to further strengthen relations between our two countries."

With the exchange of greetings between the top two leaders and some deft back channel diplomacy, the stage was set for a rapprochement. Shringla was welcomed warmly in Kathmandu on his two-day official visit on November 26-27, where he met Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Oli, besides a host of senior officials. In an immensely successful visit, Shringla said:

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the lead in promoting regional cooperation in response to Covid-19. He has also promised India’s support to our neighbourhood. We will make Covid-19 vaccine accessible and affordable… and it goes without saying the first priority… for our closest neighbours like Nepal.” https://indianarrative.com/world/india-nepal-on-track-to-restore-ties-hit-by-border-issues-and-china-34606.html China, which has been wooing Nepal for the past few years did not miss out on the importance of the visit.

Within two days, Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe was in Kathmandu where he met Oli, Bhandari and Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa. The Himalayan country is wary of the geo-political games. An article in The Kathmandu Post analyses in detail how China is influencing Nepal's politics and how India is making a come-back. It says: "A flurry of visits from the south, according to analysts, is seen by Beijing as New Delhi’s re-entry into Nepal’s internal politics, especially the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

Insiders say Oli by and large seems to have already changed his side and agreed to play along with Delhi. It may be a routine visit, but the timing says a lot about the Chinese defence minister’s visit, analysts say." After a frozen 2020, India plans to upgrade border infrastructure, open more points for better movement of goods and enhance trade. The two also plan to restart flights through the ‘air bubble’ in December itself—which will be symbolic of the two nations coming together after a freeze.