INDIAN HOME MINISTER'S VISIT: Security Matters

As India's interest in Nepal is growing, Indian home minister Raj Nath Singh has completed his visit as the third senior politician visiting Nepal in the last four months

Sept. 26, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -8 September. 26- 2014 (Ashoj 10, 2071)

India's three senior political leaders, prime minister Narendra Modi, home minister Raj Nath Singh and minister for external Affairs Sushma Swaraj have visited Nepal in the last four months, making some major headway in the bilateral relations, signing  Power Trading Agreement (PTA) and Power Development Agreement (PDA), the two highly debated and controversial agreements on power sharing with Nepal.

In his 3-day visit to Nepal, the Indian home minister expressed his deep concern over terrorism, smuggling of fake currency notes and trans-border crimes in the Nepal-India open border.

Singh underlined the need for more focused efforts to control the activities of criminal elements, terrorists and other Indian insurgent groups along the border.  He stated that there was a need for developing a bilateral mechanism for dealing with the issue of human trafficking.  

The home minister promised full support to the Government of Nepal for strengthening the capability of the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force. He reiterated the Indian offer to provide full financial support to set up the National Police Academy of Nepal.  The Indian HM expressed his concern over the growth of religious fundamentalism in the border areas.

According to a press release of the Indian Embassy, the home minister of Nepal informed that several steps had already been taken to check cross-border crimes.  He assured full cooperation to India in that regard.  He further stated that he would ensure no security threat to India owing to Nepal.

Along with India, Nepal also shares its long northern border with China, whose president  Xi Jinping's recently completed, highly publicized, first visit to India was with both enthusiasm in economic relations and disappointment in the border issue. However, Indian prime minister Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj avoided making any comments on China's interests in Nepal.  

However, home minister and former BJP leader Raj Nath Singh completely downplayed the role minimising China's strategic significance in Nepal. Even Indian newspapers reported that BJP home minister Singh pleaded with Nepali government to ban some local radio stations live telecasting Chinese news, terming it as anti-Indian.

No matter whether Indian leaders acknowledge China's security interests in Nepal or not, the Chinese continue to show their presence in one way or the other by collaborating with various organisations.

At a time when all the agreements signed with China, including the extension of Ring Road, is delayed by almost a year due to apathy of the government and removal of minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Bhim Acharya, the construction of the regional airport in Pokhara and arrival of two Chinese built aircraft are also now uncertain. Delaying the opening of Kodari Highway, the only direct trade route with China, has already sent a wrong message to China.

"When there is dilly dallying in the Chinese projects and getting clearance for the Indian projects, it is not difficult for Chinese Mandarins to see the writings on the wall. China cannot tolerate hegemonic attitude of other neighbours in Nepal," said a former diplomat having watched China's role closely in Nepal.  

As there is simmering dissension against PTA and PDA and enough radicals to disrupt any move, nothing can be ruled out in the coming days. BJP's Hindu nationalist government led by Modi's policy will put Nepal in a more difficult phase in the coming days.  

As a priority of the new BJP government, India has been making efforts to warm its relations with Nepal. With the visit of Indian prime minister Modi, foreign minister Swaraj and home minister Singh, India has made certain gains in Nepal.

"Security of Nepal and India is interlinked," said Indian home minister Rajnath Singh who came to attend the sixth meeting of SAARC Ministers of interior or home portfolio.

Along with meeting president Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, Indian home Minister Singh called on Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and met Deputy PM/Home Minister Bamdev Gautam and leaders from Nepali Congress and Madhesh based political parties.

Minister Singh expressed deep appreciation to the contribution of Nepalese citizens in the Indian Army. Singh stated that there was enormous goodwill for Nepal in India and he assured the leadership of Nepal that both the countries will work to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal. 

He offered greater cooperation to Nepal and underlined the need to establish a bilateral mechanism on disaster management.  India suggested that a needs assessment team for disaster management should be set up in both the countries. 

With the formation of the new government in India, the bilateral relations between the two countries are warming. Given Nepal's long open border and presence of large Tibetan exiles in India, how Nepal and India can assure China that Nepal and India's closeness is not directed against China's interests will determine the nature of peace and stability in Nepal.

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