Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s attendance at the closing ceremony of the 29the Beijing Olympics has rightly made up for the absence of Nepal’s head of state or government at the inaugural ceremony, attended by the top leaders of dozens of countries. If there had not been unnecessary delay in government formation, he would
have gone to Colombo before China to represent Nepal at the SAARC summit. It was only in the fitness of things that Nepal would register its highest participation in momentous events that took place in India or China. The China visit, undertaken purely for the world’s largest sport carnival, naturally became occasion for the leaders of the two countries to meet and discuss matters of mutual concern to strengthen bilateral ties further. Top leaders of many other countries have also done the same thing. Any failure on Prachanda’s part to go to Beijing would have constituted a diplomatic blunder for Nepal.
Other visits can wait, though, for example, Prachanda received an invitation to visit New Delhi as soon as he became Prime Minister. The 29th Olympics could not have waited for Prachanda, nor, for that matter, could the SAARC summit have for Girija Prasad Koirala. In Nepal, unfortunately, some people, including political analysts, have tried to give more meaning to the Prime Minister’s visit to China, because it so happened that it was his first
visit and it happened to depart from the recent trend of a Nepali prime minister paying his first visit to India. For some people in Nepal, this departure might be of symbolic importance. Sadly, sections of the Indian media have also seen ‘a red signal’ in this departure, and, according to them, the Delhi establishment has expressed its ‘concern’ over this ‘power shift’, even implicating Indian Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh, who is highly unlikely to have reacted thus to such an irrelevant matter, given his stature and character.
What, however, is of supreme importance is the substance of relationship. At the cost of India and China, Nepal cannot develop ties with any other country, nor can it deepen bonds with either India or China at the other’s expense. It is also a fact that Nepal borders with India on three sides, that the borders are open, that geography (the plains) makes access to India much easier than with China. As a result, Nepal’s day-to-day social, cultural and economic interactions with India are much closer. This way Nepal bears a special relationship to India. But small sections in the Indian media and the political establishment attempt to portray this ‘special relationship’ in a different way. Undoubtedly, India is an emerging power in Asia and the world. Happily, there is the New India where its leaders, including its PM Man Mohan Singh, are widely seen to represent new outlook and new thinking. At the same time, there are still small enclaves with the Cold War hangover. Some quarters in Nepal will also do well to learn to look upon India in a fresh, positive way. It is important that New India and New Nepal together build a wider, deeper, and stronger relationship, imbued with a new outlook.