Nepal and India are intricately linked to each other with close contacts and interactions at the levels of people and government. With each political change or transfer of political power from one hand to the other, it has been both customary and compulsive for the Nepali leadership to refresh and reinvigorate bilateral ties.

The recently concluded Prime Minister G P Koirala’s visit to India is no exception to this usual phenomenon. The Indian prime minister showed respect and affection to his Nepali counterpart during his stay in New Delhi, profusely indicating a healthy status of bilateral relations. This visit appears to have heralded a new beginning in the bilateral relationship after the historic political change in Nepal. Interestingly, the situation around and in Nepal has developed in a way favourable to putting the relationship on a much firmer ground.

Noteworthy are two developments that took place. First, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between India and China in Beijing in the last week of May has required both these otherwise former rivals to get themselves involved in the military engagement, in particular, in the fields of navy and army, contributing further to confidence-building measures. Second, India is now poised to record a double-digit economic growth rate in the immediate future. Undoubtedly, the first development creates a peaceful ambience in the region and the second presents innumerable opportunities for Nepal to move ahead for its own development.

Along with these favourable developments, the Nepali people’s successful movement by winning accolades from the democratic world will remain one of the finest achievements ever recorded in the annals of South Asian region, which will go a long way in winning much international goodwill for Nepal.

Against this peaceful and stable backdrop in the South Asian region and the world, Nepal’s international political position, with not much to worry about security now, is favourably assured. However, with the growing complexity of multilateral interdependence on the global scale, the journey of Nepal in the world requires more thoughtful actions to avoid any entanglements in the future. Our relations with India have become more complex with the growing socio-economic developments taking place in the 21st century, which is characteristic of a shrunken world. Nepal needs to clearly identify its national interests in its relationship with India to guide its policy in an amicable way for greater advantages. The national position of any country is lasting. However, national interests move in their own ways with each passing decade requiring adjustments. National interests, albeit floating, remain vital for the country. To protect and promote the national interests is a stupendous but also a noble task. The more so because we have to deal with a big neighbour with its varied interests and concerns. Numerous irritants, issues and problems are there to deal with. Under such circumstances, the pastiche of various proposals randomly presented on different occasions would not serve our long-term national interests, nor does any medley of assorted actions and approaches bring better results.

What is needed is a concerted effort with a determined pursuit to advance the national interests in a more sensible way with due attention to the sensitivities and concerns of our southern neighbour. While doing so, we may have to act in the spirit of mutuality, if such acts serve our long-term interests. We must be able to prioritise our national interests in the political and socio-economic spheres to capitalise on our long- and short-term goals, which demand a well-thought-out strategic planning to win the confidence of India. Such an act will not be a piece of unrealistic imagination nor will it be a magician’s trick, but a hard “must” to make substantial gains.

A transformed Nepal demands a transformed visionary statesmanship to reach greater heights of success in our dealings with India. For this, an opportune moment is on hand now.

The government needs to work in a cooperative spirit. Indeed, it must feel an obligation to accommodate all-inclusive ideas into the body of strategic planning in closer consultation with and confidence reposed in all political forces and civil society, as they too contributed to the historic success of the restoration of democracy. National consensus reinforces national policy. Certainly, such understanding would help to follow a consistent and coherent policy vis-à-vis India.

If conducted with care and caution, Nepal’s foreign policy would make more convincing gains not only from India but also from other countries with more goodwill and friendship won for Nepal. The current political and government leadership must do the required groundwork with foresight to give a much healthier direction to our highly valued relationship with India.

Shrestha is an ex-foreign ministry official