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A pragmatic approach, for better India-Nepal ties

The article highlights the strained relations between India and Nepal due to factors like Nepal’s ties with China, water resource disputes, and India’s concerns about Nepal’s internal security. It emphasizes the need to address these challenges for better India-Nepal ties and presents opportunities for cooperation in trade, investment, development, security, and cultural exchange. Recent positive developments and the potential benefits of collaboration are also mentioned, concluding that a pragmatic approach can lead to a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship.

  • India and Nepal are two close neighbours with a long and unique history. There has been a long tradition of free movement of people across the border. Nepalese citizens enjoy many of the same rights and privileges as Indian citizens, and nearly 8 million Nepalese citizens live and work in India.
  • The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 is the foundation of the special relationship between the two countries. The treaty guarantees Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and it provides for mutual cooperation in a number of areas, including trade, transit, and defense.
  • The India-Nepal relationship is a model of cooperation and friendship. The two countries have a long history of working together to address common challenges and to build a better future for their people.
Special relationship

This special relationship is based on a number of factors, including:

  • A shared history and culture: India and Nepal share a rich history and culture. The two countries have been linked for centuries, and their cultures have influenced each other in many ways.
  • A common border: The long border between India and Nepal has facilitated trade, travel, and cultural exchange between the two countries. The border between India and Nepal stretches for more than 1850 km, connecting five Indian states: Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
  • Mutual economic interests: India and Nepal are economically interdependent. India is Nepal’s largest trading partner, and Nepal is a major source of hydroelectric power for India.
  • Security concerns: India and Nepal share security concerns, such as terrorism and cross-border crime. The two countries cooperate on security issues, and India provides Nepal with military and financial assistance.
Recent developments

In recent years, there have been a number of positive developments in India-Nepal relations. In 2017, the two countries signed a new trade and transit agreement, which is expected to boost trade and investment. India has also provided Nepal with significant financial assistance for development projects, such as the construction of roads and hospitals.

In addition, the two countries have been cooperating on security issues. In 2015, India and Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding on security cooperation, which allows the two countries to share information and coordinate on counterterrorism and border security.

Nepal PM’s visit to India
  • Emphasis on Ramayana Circuit:

    During Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’s visit to India, there was a strong emphasis on fast-tracking projects related to the Ramayana circuit. It highlights the importance of promoting tourism and people-to-people exchanges based on the shared cultural heritage between the two countries.

  • Transit Agreement for Connectivity:

    Both sides signed a Transit Agreement, a significant step to facilitate Nepal’s access to India’s inland waterways. This agreement is expected to enhance trade and connectivity, providing Nepal with efficient transportation options and opening up opportunities for economic growth and development.

  • Cooperation in Power Sector:

    India and Nepal reaffirmed their commitment to the India-Nepal vision document for cooperation in the power sector. The signing of the Power Trade Agreement and the ambitious target of importing 10,000 MW of electricity from Nepal demonstrate their determination to strengthen energy cooperation and address the increasing energy demands of both nations.

  • Energy Connectivity and Infrastructure Development:

    The construction of a new pipeline from Siliguri to Jhapa underscores the significance of energy connectivity and infrastructure development. This pipeline will enhance reliable and efficient energy transmission between India and Nepal, fostering stronger energy cooperation and promoting regional integration.

  • Hydroelectric Projects:

    Several agreements were signed, including those pertaining to hydroelectric projects such as the Phukot Karnali Hydroelectric Project and the Lower Arun Hydroelectric Project. These agreements demonstrate the commitment to harnessing Nepal’s hydropower potential for mutual benefit and sustainable development.

  • Joint Infrastructure Development and Connectivity:

    The focus on the Pancheshwar multipurpose project, the groundbreaking ceremony of the Gorakhpur-Bhutwal Transmission Line, and the inauguration of integrated checkposts highlights the commitment to joint infrastructure development and connectivity. These initiatives aim to enhance trade facilitation and promote regional integration.

In addition to these developments, the meeting between the Prime Minister of Nepal and the President of India signifies the high-level engagement and the significance of bilateral relations.

The controversial amendment to Nepal’s citizenship law granting expedited citizenship and political rights to women foreigners married to Nepalis reflects a progressive approach. However, it raises concerns regarding potential implications for the descendants of Tibetan refugees and may impact relations with China.


India and Nepal have a long-standing and deep-rooted relationship, connected by a common border, shared history, and cultural affinity. However, recent years have witnessed strains in their relations, primarily due to various factors. Nepal’s growing ties with China have raised concerns for India, as it fears China’s potential influence in Nepal might compromise its security interests. Additionally, disputes over trade and water resources, such as the utilization of shared rivers, have further complicated the relationship. These challenges need to be addressed in order to improve and strengthen the bilateral ties between India and Nepal.

Despite these challenges, there is a strong case for India and Nepal to work together to improve their relationship. The two countries have a lot to gain from cooperation, including increased trade, investment, and development. They can also work together to address common challenges, such as terrorism, climate change, and poverty.


Despite these challenges, there are a number of opportunities for India and Nepal to improve their relationship. These include:

  • Trade and investment: Better India-Nepal ties can boost trade and investment by removing barriers to cross-border movement of goods and people. They can also work together to develop infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and power grids.
  • Development cooperation: India can provide Nepal with financial and technical assistance to help it achieve its development goals. This could include support for projects in areas such as education, health, and agriculture.
  • Security cooperation: India and Nepal can work together to address common security threats, such as terrorism and cross-border crime. They can also cooperate on border management and disaster relief.
  • Cultural exchange: Better India-Nepal ties  can promote cultural exchange, tourism, and people-to-people contact. By building stronger ties between their citizens, the two countries can lay the foundation for a more enduring and prosperous relationship.
Way forward

In order to better India-Nepal ties, we still need to address some challenges despite these positive developments. These include:

  • Disputes over water resources: India and Nepal share a number of rivers. There have been disputes over the use of these resources. For example, Nepal has accused India of not releasing enough water from the Mahakali River, which is a major source of hydroelectric power for Nepal.
  • Nepal’s growing ties with China: Nepal has been seeking closer ties with China in recent years. India is worried that China could use its influence in Nepal to undermine India’s security interests.
  • India’s concerns about Nepal’s internal security: India has been concerned about the rise of Maoist rebels in Nepal. These rebels have been fighting the Nepalese government for over a decade, and they have carried out attacks in India.

Despite these challenges, there is a strong case for better India-Nepal ties. The two countries have a lot to gain from cooperation, and they share a common interest in peace and stability in the region. By taking a pragmatic approach, India and Nepal can build a stronger and more mutually beneficial relationship.


India and Nepal are two close neighbors with a long history of cooperation. By working together, the two countries can address common challenges and build a more prosperous and secure future for the region.

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