Rumour has it that Narendra Modi (NaMo) PM of India had perhaps spent two years of his early life amongst the ascetics/ lamas in the Mukti Nath area of the Himalayas. Was it his desire to discover further his roots that brought him to Nepal this time? His references to various regions and aspects of life in Nepal depicted his familiarity with our country, though his reference to our flora as ‘Lily Gurans’ may have been a slip of the tongue! However, his recent visit to Nepal with its cultural and religious overtones may also be taken as an exercise of tamashas or gimmicks. True it created great hullabaloo in that it was his third visit to Nepal during his premiership. He stated that he may come again, before his term as PM finishes, for paying respects to Lord Buddha at Lumbini.
This visit, planned to start with a helicopter ride from Patna to Kathmandu, turned out to be in an army plane VT-AIY from Delhi. Then came the function at the Janaki Mandir from where the first cross country bus service from Janakpur to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh(UP) was flagged off waving two green flags by the PMs of India and Nepal. Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of UP welcomed the travellers at the other end of what has been termed the Ramayan Circuit. The first trip was undertaken but what is surprising is that this was a onetime affair. This tamasha service has been suspended indefinitely! What a gimmick, to fool whom?
An eye catching event was the distorted Nepali flag put in place barely half-an-hour before the event by the Indian army, says an item insertion in Twitter. Was this true? Then what about the Indian flag atop the Janaki Mandir? Who was the miscreant who placed it there? Is this all ‘fake’ news? Is it all disinformation in FB as occurred at the time of the US presidential election in Nov. 2016? To catch the media attention at the Barahbigha grounds, CK Raut’s activists presumably as a gimmick too, had liberally placed ‘Free Madesh’ signs to catch the attention of TV cameras. To top it all Lal Babu Raut, Chief Minister of Pradesh No.2 publicly stated to the constitution of Nepal is a ‘discriminatory’ document!
The references to the mountaineering and Sherpa community made by NaMo at the civic reception at Kathmandu were topical. Listening to the vivid remarks in his speech at the civic reception, there is no doubt that NaMo is a great orator. His pronouncement, “Nepal has reached the Base Camp. It needs to reach to the top of the Mount Everest. India will work as a Sherpa for Nepal to reach the top of the world” was noteworthy. Bravo.
A gimmick which is a cause for worry is a picture in Twitter which shows NaMo taking a selfie with the Himalayas as background. Mukitinath temple, Janaki Mandir and Pashupatinath temple are shown in foreground. It is a nice representation of perhaps his liking for Nepal but the question is whether it is doctored to influence public opinion?
A disturbing development is the high handedness shown by our own security forces when they prevented Bibeksheel Sajha party’s protest at Bakhondole. The partywallahs had put up black banners stating ‘We haven’t forgotten the blockade’. Newspapers report that 30 persons were arrested the first day and 23 on the second. Was such high handedness necessary?
It is noteworthy that NaMo’s major speeches at Janakpur, Mukti Nath and Kathmandu made many conciliatory references to improve the relationship between India and Nepal.
There is no doubt that the first visit of NaMo as the Indian PM, when he disembarked from his vehicle to mix with people on the road had generated great enthusiasm and immense bonhomie for him amongst the Nepalis. The ‘unofficial’ blockade of Nepal that took place at end of 2015 and subjected the Nepali people to great hardships made his popularity amongst Nepalis to plummet downwards and reach a nadir. The aid promised at the time, both in the precincts of Pashupatinath and elsewhere for earthquake reconstruction have still not reached us. The Hulaki Rajmarg and other projects always seem to start late and take longer to complete as if they were being constructed by late Latif contractors! This time the PM was accompanied by 48 commandos on this visit. Was there a whiff of danger in the air? What does all this signify? Is it because our politicians of the various shades of the rainbow have always been kow-towing to our Southern neighbour that they always ignore and brush us aside? Does it mean that the Nepalis can always be taken for granted and ignored?
It has been a long journey from the time that Govinda Narayan accompanied King Tribhuvan to Nepal. One remembers that the Peace & Friendship Treaty of 1950 was signed by the then PM Mohan SJB Rana and the Indian Ambassador Chandeshwar Prasad Singh Sinha at Kathmandu on July 7th of that year. The ups and downs of our relationship during the last sixty-seven years have seen three blockades of the country by India. Hopefully a true and lasting reassessment of our relationship with India has occurred with this recent visit of NaMo to Nepal. Is it for real? Is it now really going to be ‘older brother’ rather than ‘Big brother’ as had been voiced by Ms. Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Minister of India some time ago? There is hope that the Eminent Persons Groups from India and Nepal, who have been working for the past two years, will finalise their combined report and submit recommendations for the revision of the treaty of 1950.