Army Chief General MM Naravane to go on a 3-day strategic visit to Nepal

Army Chief General MM Naravane will visit Nepal on November 4 aiming to reset relations with the neighbor country. His three-day visit will have remarkable implications as the relationship with Nepal has been under strain for months due to a border dispute. He will hold extensive talks with the top civilian and military brass of Nepal including his counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa. The dialogue will be on a range of key issues such as further boosting the management of the nearly 1,800 km-long borders between the two countries. Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari will confer Gen Naravane with the honorary rank of ‘General of the Nepal Army’. This will be the continuation of an age-old tradition that began in 1950. 

First high-level visit since severe ties

Similarly, India also confers the honorary rank of ‘General of Indian Army’ to the Nepal Army Chief. Since the ties between the two neighbours came under strain, it will be the first high-level visit from India to Kathmandu. In May, Nepal had come up with a new political map claiming several areas in Uttarakhand to be part of its territory. To reset the ties, India’s decision to send the Army Chief is part of a larger exercise. It will also help invigorate relations with the Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar and Afghanistan. India took this decision in the wake of greater efforts by China to expand its influence in the region.

India biggest exporter to Nepal

For India, Nepal is vital in the context of its overall strategic interests in the region. For the transportation of goods and services, landlocked Nepal depends heavily on India. Nepal’s reach to the sea is by means of India. It imports a major proportion of its supplies from and through India. As per official data, in 2017, Nepal’s imports from India were worth USD 6.52 billion. On the other hand, its exports to India were worth USD 420.18 million. China ranked second on the list of countries from which Nepal imported its supplies. However, China’s supplies were five times lesser than that of India.

Work on the security concerns

Prior to this, Gen Naravane visited Myanmar this month. During the visit, India decided to supply an attack submarine to the Myanmarese Navy. This is in line with security concerns of India’s strategic thinkers. China has been seizing Nepalese territories in a number of locations along the borders between the two countries. However, Nepal had denied about any such news of encroachments. As per many geopolitical experts, the ruling Nepali Communist Party (NCP) is trying to shield the expansionist agenda of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The main reason behind the border tussle

On May 8, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh initiated an 80-km-long tactically vital road joining the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand. Since then, the relationship between the two countries came under strain. Nepal objected the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, Nepal came out with the new map showing Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani as its areas. In November 2019, India had published a Map displaying the areas as its areas. India reacted sharply when Nepal released the map and termed it unilateral act. Nepal’s Parliament approved the new political map of the country in June. It features areas which are Indian territories.

Near Kalapani, the Lipulekh pass is a far-off western point. Between India and Nepal, Kalapani is a disputed border area. As an essential part of their territory, both India and Nepal claim Kalapani their territory. India considers it a part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district while Nepal claims it to be a part of Dharchula district.

Courtesy: Financial Express

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