Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to Nepal
Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to Nepal
by Siddhi B Ranjitkar
August 6, 2014
The visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been one of the greatest events in the history of Nepal-India relations. The visit was after 17 years of the previous visit of the then Indian prime minister. Judging from his speech delivered to the parliament, he was for taking the relations between Nepal and India to a new height. He spoke for the development of not only of Nepal and India but also of the SAARC countries. He also committed to one billion US dollar of credit to Nepal. And he was for making every effort possible on helping Nepal to develop its politics and economics. He appreciated the rebels that gave up the bullets for ballots. He said that the political development in Nepal could be the model for the warring people elsewhere in the world to choose ballots for bullets. So, he anticipated the current constituent assembly would craft a new inclusive constitution that would keep Nepal in one piece for hundreds of years, and lead Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal to prosperity. That was the only path to the development of Nepal, said Prime Minister Modi while speaking to the Nepalese parliament in Kathmandu on August 3, 2014.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Nepal in a special aircraft from New Delhi to Kathmandu on August 3, 2014. Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, deputy prime ministers, ministers, Speaker and other high-ranking Nepalese officials received the Indian dignitary at the international airport in Kathmandu.
Special arrangements were made at the Hyatt Hotel in Kathmandu for the Indian prime minister and other ministers and high officials accompanying him for staying there during the visit. One day before the visit of the Indian prime minister the Indian special aircraft flew bulletproof car for Indian Prime minister Modi in Kathmandu.
On the afternoon of August 3, 2014, Prime Minister Modi delivered a speech to the Nepalese parliament. He started off greetings in Nepali language, and he switched on to speak in Hindi. All Nepalese parliamentarians must have felt at ease to listen to Prime Minister Modi in Hindi than in English. His speech was aired live on the Nepalese national TVs.
Prime Minister Modi said that Nepal and India were so close but it took him 17 years to visit Nepal as a prime minister. Previous Indian prime ministers did not bother to visit Nepal. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to visit Nepal but he did not. Former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Nepal twice in 1950s, and then in early 1960s.
He also said that he was going to visit Nepal soon for the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit. SAARC was the association of eight South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. They held a summit in rotation. The secretariat of SAARC was in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Prime Minister Modi said that the border should not be a barrier but a bridge. In fact, the border between Nepal and India was opened to the citizens of both the countries. They could walk in and out without any permit.
In the mid 1980s, the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi closed 21 entry points on the border between India and Nepal leaving only one point opened following the international convention to teach one or two lessons to the then king of Nepal Birenda. However, Prime Minister Gandhi himself learned a good lesson from his closure of the entry points, as the business between Nepal and India had increased. So, it did not affect the lives of Nepalese.
Nepal was a sovereign nation. India respected the sovereignty of Nepal. India had no intention to interfere in the international affairs of the sovereign country: Nepal, Prime Minister Modi said.
Then, Prime Minister Modi went on saying how close religious relations between Nepal and India had been. He said that one of the temples in Benares had the Nepalese priests, and the Nepalese temple to Pashupati in Kathmandu had the Indian priests.
Maoist minister for culture in 2008 had attempted to replace the Indian priests at the Pashupati temple with the Nepalese priests but the then opposition members of the parliament belonging to the NC did not let him do so.
The Indian priests serving at Pashupati were highest paid officials in Nepal. The chief priest received US$ 3,000 per month while other priests received US$ 2,000 per month. In addition, the priests received 20% of the special offerings made to Lord Pashupati. The Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) made this provision for the priests after the priests refused to perform the special offerings. The cost of performing special offerings varied from US$ 100 to 1,000 depending on the size of offerings. The president of Nepal received US$ 1,500 per month while the lowest paid State employees received about US$ 100 per month.
Pashupati was another name of Lord Shiva. According to the mythical stories, Lord Shiva had his abode called Kailash in the Himalayas. Major parts of the Himalayas were in Nepal. Some of the Himalayas were in the Eastern and Western India. Indian Hindu scholar called Shankaracharya said that ‘Doleswor Mahadev’ also another name of Lord Shiva was in fact the head of Lord Shiva. ‘Doleswor Mahadev’ is in Nepal.
Prime Minister Modi said that Buddha was born in Nepal. He hinted at visiting the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and Janakpur the birthplace of Sita: one of the main characters of the epic called Mahabharat. Both the places were in the current Nepal. In fact, when Buddha was born, we did not have Nepal or India. Both the countries were of the recent origin despite the old historical and cultural heritages of Nepalese and Indian people.
Some Nepalis had been fussy about some people in India saying Buddha was born in India. They must have ignored even the first prime minister of Independent India Jawaharlal Nehru wrote Buddha was born in Nepal in his book called ‘Discovery of India.” He wrote the book when he was engaged in the free-India movement.
Prime Minister Modi said that India would increase the number of scholarships provide to the Nepalese youths for higher education in India. It would build the technical manpower Nepal needed to develop its economy.
Prime Minister Modi explained how Nepalese serving in the Indian army had been considered as the bravest soldiers. He quoted Indian Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw as saying, “if any soldier says he is not afraid of death, he must be either lying or he must be a Gurkha.” The saying indicated that Gurkhas were both sincere and brave, Prime Minister Modi hinted at.
After the Nepal-India peace treaty done at Sugauli in the 19th century, the then British Indian government secured the rights to recruit Nepalese for the British Indian army. They made a special battalion of the Nepalese soldiers, and called it the Gurkha battalion. After the British left India in 1947, the Indian Gurkha army was split into the British Gurkha army, and the Indian Gurkha army.
When China invaded India in 1962, and India fought Pakistan in 1971, the Indian Gurkha army fought at both the fronts in the east and the west. When Argentine seized Falkland, the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent British Gurkhas to Falkland Island to repulse Argentine army. Gurkhas recaptured the island.
Prime Minister Modi said that Nepal and India were so closely knitted together; India could not sleep when Nepal had trouble. When the massive landslide blocked the Sunkoshi River in Nepal; India had to brace up for the possible floods in India. He was referring to the massive landslide that had blocked the Sunkoshi River on the morning of August 2, 2014.
On the early morning of Saturday, August 2, 2014, the massive landslide dammed the water on the Sunkoshi River and made three kilometers long and 100 m wide and 90 m deep dam posing threat to the people and infrastructure downstream.
Nepal alerted the people living in Southeastern Nepal, and Indian State Bihar also alerted the people to the possible floods. The outburst of the huge dam made by the landslide might cause unprecedented floods downstream. So, at the request of the government of Nepal, all gates of the dam on the Saptakoshi River were opened for smooth flow of water.
Prime Minister Modi said that he had three things for the development of Nepal. They were highways, Internet and transmission lime, in shot HIT. Nepal needed to develop highways in the large scale. Nepal needed to go digital, and Nepal should have power transmission lines so that Nepal could receive power from India for the immediate need, and when Nepal would produce sufficient power, Indian could enjoy power from Nepal through the transmission lines.
He also said that the Pancheshwar Development Authority had been set up. The more than six-thousands-megawatt-power plant could go on for construction. The power production in Nepal would light both Nepal and India, Prime Minister Modi said, India would buy the power at the market price.
Prime Minister Modi went on saying India would not be able to develop without developing Nepal and other neighbors. So, he took initiates to bring together the SAARC countries for development. He was for developing all South Asian countries to develop together.
He said that SAARC nations could benefit from the space technology. He was for launching a SAARC communication satellite to reduce the telephone cost. Calling from Nepal to India and vice versa was so high, they simply said, “Namaste means hello, and then hang up the phone.”
He repeatedly said that he appreciated the rebels leaving bullets for ballots, and setting up Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. He also said he had an expectation that the current constituent assembly would craft a new inclusive constitution that would be good for the coming 100 years. He said that India had a constitution that put together 1.25 billion people from Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east, and from Sikkim in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. Nepal should have a new constitution that would put all people together.
Prime Minister Modi said: a new constitution should be of inclusive of all people from the Himalayas to Terai. A comma or a full stop should not be a bone of contention after 100 years. The members of the constituent assembly should have the hearts of saints while crafting a new constitution. A constitution would be for all Nepali whether they were rich or poor. A new constitution should ensure their rights to live as citizens, Prime minister Modi said. A constitution should bind people not divide; a constitution should be the betterment of all citizens, Prime Minister Modi said.
Prime Minister Modi said that India would help Nepal in making the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal a path to development and prosperity of the Nepalese people. He also said that Nepal would be a model to the people elsewhere in the world to follow the way Nepal had developed to institutionalize the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. He called on the members of the constituent assembly to craft a constitution that would be the standing example for the people elsewhere in the world to follow.
In his speech to the Nepalese parliament on August 3, 2014, Prime Minister Modi demonstrated that he was the world-class statement. He would lead not only India but also the entire South Asia to prosperity.
However, he had been taking time to open India to the world for investment and development. He knew that India could not remain isolated without opening the door to the world.
The businesspeople had anticipated that Modi would quickly take actions on liberalizing the India economy. So, when Modi was sure to win the Indian elections, the dollar value went down by two Indian currencies but the dollar value went up again after Modi was sworn in. It has been already two months since Modi became the prime minister of India; the dollar remained around 60 Indian currencies to a dollar.
Prime Minister Modi had the background of making his State Gujarat prosperous. He opened the Gujarat State to the investors. The famous Indian TATA Company moved its auto industry from the West Bengal to Gujarat. The company had found West Bengal very difficult place to run the business. Prime Minister Modi made Gujarat conducive to investment when he was a chief minister there.
CPN-Maoist had called a protest against Nepal signing off the power deal with India but quickly withdrew the protest program when the government of Nepal postponed it. Similarly, UCPN-Maoist had opposed the power development agreement (PDA) India had proposed. The party said that only the power trade agreement (PTA) should be reached with India.
“The draft of the PTA we have prepared focuses on trading in power between the two countries and cross-border grid connection to facilitate import as well as export of electricity,” Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told ‘The Himalayan Times’. “It does not include provisions for Indian investment in hydroelectricity generation and harnessing the country’s hydropower potential with Indian support.” The latest move separating the power generation from the power trading expected to calm down those parties bitterly opposing the provision for power generation in the draft agreement on Nepal-India cooperation in the power sector, hinting at giving the sole authority to the Indian government or companies to build hydroelectric projects in Nepal. (Source: Thehimalayantimes.com, July 31, 2014)
The US government also was preparing for receiving Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US. While talking about the relations between the US and India at the Center for American Progress: a think tank on Monday, July 28, 2014 in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry quoted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's poll mantra "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” means "Together with all, development for all". "We believe it's a great vision, and our private sector is eager to be a catalyst in India's economic revitalization," he said. (Source: BBC NEWS “John Kerry on mission to woo Indian PM Modi”)
Kathmandu, August 1, 2014: talking to a private Nepalese TV channel, Kamal Thapa Chairman of the RPP-Nepal: a pro-Hindu political party in Nepal said that his party would not seek Prime Minister Narendra Modi's help in restoring the country to the world's only Hindu state. "We don't want leaders of other country to get involved in our internal matter," he told a private television channel during an interview. "We will raise the matter within our own country." The RPP-Nepal has focused its campaign on making Nepal a Hindu state once again after it was declared a secular republic in 2008. (Source: Economictimes.indiatimes.com, August 1, 2014)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been the guardian of a Nepali boy looking after his education and well being for over a decade. Jeet Bahadur was a poor Nepali boy. Modi met him by chance in 1998 and decided to look after him for pursuing a BBA degree in Ahmedabad. Jeet came to Gujarat by chance after boarding a wrong train from Delhi in 1998. Instead of boarding a train to Gorakhpur, Jeet boarded one going to Ahmedabad. There he met a woman that took him to meet Modi. Then, Modi had not been a chief minister, yet. Jeet was born in a poor family in Lokaha village in Nawalparasi district of Nepal. (Source: indiatoday.intoday.in, July 31, 2014)