See More on Facebook

Analysis

When Modi played up cultural linkages to mend ties with Nepal

On his recent visit to Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi put to good use religion and culture to firm India’s ties with the Himalayan nation.


Written by

Updated: May 15, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on a two-day trip to Nepal over the weekend (May 11-12), highlighted the religious and cultural linkages between the two neighbours to improve ties with the Himalayan nation.

This was Modi’s first visit to Nepal after the 2015 border blockade, an unofficial blockade of areas bordering India, which crippled Nepal’s economy.

The blockade was organised following the promulgation of Nepal’s first Constitution, which many said had failed to address the demands of ethnic Madhesis, a group living in southern Nepal along the Indian frontier. The Madhesis, who constitute more than one-third of the country’s population, have long felt marginalised by the northern hill people, and often their loyalty has been questioned due to their close relations with India.

Modi’s visit was high on symbolism – with him putting to good use religion and culture to firm India’s ties with Nepal. He began his trip (the third to this Himalayan nation since taking over as prime minister) with a prayer at the Janaki Temple in Janakpur, the region bordering the Indian state of Bihar.

His Nepali counterpart KP Oli welcomed him in Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita, the wife of Hindu god Ram in the epic Ramayana. The two leaders launched a bus service from Janakpur to Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of Ram, completing the “Ramayana circuit”.

Modi also visited another Hindu pilgrimage site, Pashupatinath Temple in Muktinath near the Tibet border – projecting himself as a devout Hindu.

Modi and Oli built good rapport during their discussions and agreed to resolve all outstanding issues by September 19, which is Nepal’s Constitution Day. Modi held a one-on-one meeting with Oli followed by marathon delegation-level talks on all aspects of the bilateral relationship. He said India was with Nepal in its development journey. Oli said the two countries have agreed to expedite implementation of all pending projects of bilateral cooperation – power, rail, inland waterways, roads – by Nepal’s Constitution Day.

Modi’s emphasis on culture, democracy and development was aimed at opening up to Nepal against the backdrop of India’s strategic rival China making deep inroads into that country.

“Countering hard power by projecting soft power: In contrast to China’s efforts to muscle its way into Nepal, Modi’s current, well-received visit to the Himalayan nation seeks to emphasize India’s historically close cultural, religious, and people-to-people relations with Nepal,” defence analyst Brahma Chellaney tweeted.

The Hindustan Times, too, noted in an editorial that “India’s calculation is that instead of playing to Beijing’s strength, Delhi must leverage its traditional linkages, and convert that into modern opportunities”.

India has assured Kathmandu that it will respect its electoral mandate. “This comes in the wake of active Indian involvement in Nepal, starting from encouraging an anti-monarchy alliance (2005) to expressing its reservations about the Nepali constitution (2015). India is now telling Nepal, your politics is yours and we will respect it,” the editorial read.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Lamat R Hasan
About the Author: Lamat is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis

Drama far from over in India’s Karnataka after polls

Supreme Court orders one-day-old Karnataka chief minister to prove majority on May 19.


By Lamat R Hasan
May 18, 2018

Analysis

The worsening water crisis in Pakistan

The almost drought-like situation in many parts of the country at the start of the sowing season is cause for serious alarm.


By ANN Members
May 18, 2018

Analysis

JAD – the terror group behind Surabaya bombings

JAD, the largest local terror group pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, has played a significant role in the terror attacks.


By The Jakarta Post
May 15, 2018

Analysis

Similarity between Surabaya church bombings, Sidoarjo bombing

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack in Indonesia’s second-largest city.


By The Jakarta Post
May 14, 2018

Analysis

Malaysia’s return of history

The after-shocks of the General Election are not over by any means, writes Andrew Sheng.


By ANN Members
May 11, 2018

Analysis

New era under world’s oldest Prime Minister

A big mandate comes with big expectations but fortunately, the world’s oldest Prime Minister comes with a world of experience.


By The Star
May 11, 2018