India and Nepal while being good neighbours, are also great bilateral partners. Both the countries are related to each other on their connection of history, culture, tradition and religion, these relations are close, comprehensive and multidimensional and are pronounced more in political, social, cultural, religious and economic engagements with each other. Popular and cultural ties between these two South Asian countries have constantly attracted the attention of not just the surrounding countries but also the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The importance of Nepal for India is that is covers about five hundred miles of its northern border along the People’s Republic of China and on the Southern sloped of the Himalayas. India and Nepal share a multi-faceted relationship which is not oriented of political factors alone but cover an entire gamut of socio-cultural and economic issues. Despite the differences in size, population, resources and economy there are numerous causes which bring India and Nepal close to each other. India has also signed three sister-city agreements with Nepal, pertaining to the twinning of Kathmandu-Varanasi, Lumbini-Bodhgaya and Janakpur-Ayodhya.
The basis of all the mutual relations between India and Nepal is the ‘India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship’ of 1950. The 1950 treaty and letters exchanged between the then Indian government and Rana rulers of Nepal, states that “neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor” and made obligations on both sides “to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighbouring state likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two governments.” These accords built a “special relationship” between India and Nepal. The treaty also granted the citizens of Nepal, the same economic and educational opportunities as Indian citizens in India, while maintaining that preference was given to Indian citizens and businesses as compared to citizens of other countries, in Nepal. The Indo-Nepal border is open; Nepalese and Indian nationals may move unhindered across the border without passports or visas and may live and work in either country. The treaty also talks about mutual exchange and reciprocation of Indian and Nepali citizens in both the two nations, in residence, property, business and movement. It also establishes national treatment for both Indian and Nepalese businesses (i.e. once imported, foreign goods would be treated just as domestic goods). The Treaty also gives Nepal, the access to weaponry from India.
India-Nepal relations are so much more than the sum of treaties and agreements concluded between the two countries. The frequent high level visits by the leaders of both the countries from time to time and the bilateral interactions constitute the focus of the ties shared by the two countries. Such high level visits also have helped in promoting goodwill, trust, understanding and cooperation between the two countries and have injected fresh momentum to further enhance the entire wide spectrum of bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation towards a more comprehensive understanding.
The recent exchange of high level State Visits by the Prime Ministers of India and Nepal have helped a lot in further enhancing the political and diplomatic relations between the two countries. In April this year, at the invitation of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the Rt. Honourable Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal, accompanied by his spouse Dr. Arzu Deuba, paid an official visit to India from 01-03 April 2022. This was Prime Minister Deuba’s first bilateral visit abroad since he assumed office in July 2021. A high-level delegation accompanied the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of Nepal called on the Vice President of India and held significant talks with the Prime Minister on 02 April, 2022.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi also paid an official visit to Lumbini on 16 May 2022 on the pious occasion of Buddha Purnima at the invitation of the Rt. Honourable Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal. This is the fifth visit of PM Modi to Nepal since 2014. Prime Minister said in his Departure Statement ahead of his visit to Lumbini, Nepal, “I look forward to offering prayers at the Mayadevi Temple on the auspicious occasion of Buddha Jayanti. I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of millions of Indians to pay reverence at the sacred site of Lord Buddha’s birth.” PM Modi and PM Deuba had fruitful discussions during PM Deuba’s visit in April, 2022 and PM Modi continued on that. Both the Prime Ministers have aimed at building and working on shared understanding to expand cooperation in various areas, most importantly hydropower, development and connectivity. Prime Minister Modi apart from visiting the holy Mayadevi Temple, participated in “Shilanyas” ceremony of the ‘India International Centre for Buddhist Culture & Heritage’ in the Lumbini Monastic Zone. Prime Minister Modi’s visit has continued the age-old tradition of regular high level exchanges between India and Nepal in promoting of our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. It also propagates the essence of shared civilizational heritage of the people of both countries. India and Nepal enjoy age-old special ties of friendship and cooperation. In recent years, the partnership has witnessed significant growth in all areas of cooperation. During PM Modi’s official visit, India and Nepal signed and exchanged six Memorandum of Understandings and Agreements:
1. Memorandum of Understanding between Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Lumbini Buddhist University on the establishment of Dr. Ambedkar Chair for Buddhist Studies.
2. Memorandum of Understanding between Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and CNAS, Tribhuvan University on the establishment of ICCR Chair of Indian Studies.
3. Memorandum of Understanding between Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Kathmandu University (KU) on the establishment of the ICCR Chair of Indian Studies.
4. Memorandum of Understanding [in collaboration] between Kathmandu University (KU), Nepal and Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), India.
5. Letter of Agreement (LoA) between Kathmandu University (KU), Nepal and Indian Institute of Technology (IITM), India [For Joint degree program at Master’s level].
6. Agreement between SJVN Ltd and Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) for Development and implementation of Arun 4 Project.
As rightly said by PM Modi, “Our ties with Nepal are unparalleled. The civilizational and people-to-people contacts between India and Nepal form the enduring edifice of our close relationship.”