News Analysis: Modi's visit to Nepal draws mixed reactions
by Ashok Thapa
KATHMANDU, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- A two-day visit here by Indian Premier Narendra Modi on Aug. 3-4 has drawn mixed reactions from local observers.
While some said that the visit was beneficial to Nepal, some held the visit was not beneficial. In the meantime, there is also an opinion that the visit has indeed added a new dimension to the strained Indo-Nepal relationship.
Nepal, a fragile and tiny territory sandwiched between two of the world's biggest countries, would naturally expect something new from foreign leaders and guests who come here. This time the expectation was pretty high given the backdrop against which Modi had shown eagerness to visit Nepal.
Newly elected Indian prime minister coming to Nepal within nearly three months of assuming his office, the first prime minister to come here in the last 17 years, India announcing Nepal to be its priority area and Modi himself being a devoted Hindu leader, these were the factors which not only compelled Nepali leaders but also common Nepalis to develop an overwhelming anticipation from Modi.
The most important part of Modi's visit was the signing of two major power deals between Nepal and India, including the power trading agreement (PTA) and power development agreement (PDA). These are such crucial deals that would not only help Nepal to fully tap its immense hydropower potentials but also to find power market in the southern neighbor country.
But not everybody was happy with Modi's visit. According to Kuber Chalise, a journalist with a daily newspaper based in Kathmandu, any political visits to Nepal from elsewhere are simply a ritual.
"Modi's visit was in no way different," Chalise said, "However, being a well-wisher to Nepal personally and a PM to visit here after 17 years suppositions were high that the PTA and PDA would be signed this time."
For many of the independent observers, Modi tried his best and succeeded in winning the heart of the Nepal government and Nepalis with his number of emotional stunts that he exhibited during his stay in the lap of Himalayas.
The Indian leader began appealing the hearts of mass Nepalis after media carried news about his contribution in helping a Nepali boy reunite with his family members following the gap of 17 years. Modi himself met with Jeet Bahadur Sarsu Magar's parents and family members and handed them the boy whom he has supported long before he became prime minister.
He did not also fail to exhibit his eloquence and rhetoric to impress the whole nation especially by pronouncing and vindicating the fact that Buddha was born in Nepal, the issue which has invited much tension between Nepal and India as both have been claiming to be the birthplace of Buddha.
Addressing a special session of Parliament, Modi also tried his best to convince Nepali leaders that Nepal has huge tourism potential and can cater to a massive number of Indian tourists while also ensured that India will help Nepal by providing energy as much as necessary.
Observers believe that Modi's visit to Nepal itself was the beginning of a new episode in Indo-Nepal relationship.
"Only the future can tell if Modi's visit was beneficial or successful but it can be surely said the visit was much balanced and beginning of a new frontier, the utilization of which will benefit both of the nations," one observer said.
Chalise also said there has been sense of optimism in Nepal that India has now begun to prioritize its relations with its neighbor under the leadership of Modi.
He said what Modi gave to Nepal is not an important issue but any Indian prime minister visiting Nepal after such a long interval itself is the manifestation of the fact that India is really serious to narrow the gap with Nepal and to help Nepal in whatever means.
"The presence of PM in Nepal has broken the legacy of bureaucrats and agents of both of the countries who had been seeking rivalry with each other," said an official at Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Modi's visit suggested that new platforms have been reopened for communication which could be carried through the political channel," the official said.
During his stay, Modi had stressed much on enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries at the political level while urging on the need to develop all areas and spectrums of the Himalayan country.
Nepal's media outlets have praised Modi's efforts and eagerness to support Nepal, something he vividly exposed when he was in Kathmandu. A Kathmandu-based English vernacular ran an editorial on Tuesday stating, "Modi's visit to Nepal has been highly successful in galvanizing bilateral relations towards newer heights at the political level."
Pradeep Jung Pandey, president of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), said instead of blaming India for meddling into Nepal's internal affairs and criticizing it for not supporting Nepal,the country now should focus to utilizing the space that the Indian prime minister has recently offered for communication and for collaboration.