New Delhi: Army chief General MM Naravane’s three-day visit to Nepal beginning November 4 is expected to have a significant diplomatic overtone. India is looking at resetting relations with the Himalayan nation. This is because after the ties came under severe strain following a bitter border row, officials said here Sunday. MM Naravane is scheduled to hold extensive talks with the top civilian and military brass of Nepal. Among them are the Army chief’s counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa. Discussions will be on a range of key issues such as further boosting the management of the nearly 1,800 km-long border.
“The Chief of Army Staff is scheduled to visit Nepal from November 4 to 6. He will have the aim to strengthen overall ties including in areas of defence and security,” a highly-placed government source told this agency.
In continuation of an age-old tradition that started in 1950, Gen Naravane will be conferred with the honorary rank of ‘General of the Nepal Army’ by Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari at an event in Kathmandu. India also confers the honorary rank of ‘General of Indian Army’ to the Nepal Army Chief.
It will be the first high-level visit from India to Kathmandu since the ties between the two neighbours came under strain. It happened after the Himalayan nation came up with a new political map in May. In it it claimed several areas in Uttarakhand to be part of Nepal territory.
India’s decision to send the Army Chief to Nepal to reset the ties is seen as part of a larger exercise by New Delhi. India is trying to rejuvenate relations with Myanmar, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan in the wake of greater efforts by China to expand its influence in the region,
Earlier this month, Gen Naravane travelled to Myanmar along with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on a very crucial visit. During the tour India decided to supply an attack submarine to the Myanmarese Navy.
Nepal is important for India in the context of its overall strategic interests in the region. Leaders of the two countries have often noted the age-old ‘Roti-Beti’ relationship.
Land-locked Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services. Nepal’s access to the sea is through India. It imports a predominant proportion of its requirements from and through India.
According to official data, Nepal’s imports from India in 2017 were worth USD 6.52 billion. It exports to India were pegged at USD 420.18 million.
China is second on the list of countries from which Nepal imported its requirements. The value of imports was five times lower than that of India.
On the security side, India’s strategic thinkers are concerned over reports of China grabbing Nepalese territories in a number of locations along the borders between the two countries. However, Kathmandu had clarified recently that there were no such encroachments.
It is learnt that India is for expanding overall ties with Kathmandu provided its security interests are protected.