Elder brother India (External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj insists that India is the benevolent elder, not the bossy big brother) is most certainly happy. Nepal's newly appointed prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' who didn't tarry too long before coming to New Delhi for his first bilateral talks, had a packed day on Friday, meeting President Pranab Mukherrjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
“Productive, warm conversations" was how Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar described these interactions, emphasising that both sides recognised that their futures are tied together.
Although officially India signed three agreements with Nepal, which included kick-starting the Terai road project, finalising a line of credit of 750 million dollars that India had already committed earlier, the significant part of Prachanda's conversation was regarding the vexing issue of Nepal's constitution, which soured Indo-Nepal ties during K.P. Oli's tenure and also perhaps led to his ouster from the post.
Prachanda briefed Indian leaders on the developments regarding the constitution and the political processes in Nepal. “India appreciated the gesture," said Jaishankar, reiterating the country's stance that India expected the constitution to be framed through inclusive dialogue, accommodating the aspirations of all sections of Nepal's diverse society.
It may be recalled that last year, Jaishankar was sent to Kathmandu to discuss with the Oli government which had drafted the constitution that several minorities felt accorded a shoddy deal to them. Although the Janajatis and other communities had grouses, India's main concern was regarding the Madhesis of Terai who have close familial ties with Indians of eastern UP and Bihar.
Prachanda would head to Himachal Pradesh to review a hydro electric project there. Nepal's main request to India has been to speed up power supply, specially with the Pancheshwar project.
The Oli regime saw one of the most strained relations between the two countries in the recent times. Even after Oli placated India over the constitution issue, he remained hostile, and when Prachanda and a group of other parties attempted a coup, Oli's suspected that India was behind it. He even recalled his ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhayay, who had tried giving Oli some advice which the latter thought to be pro-Indian.
Consequently, Indian aid to Nepal remained on paper. For instance, not much progress has been made on post quake reconstruction. Also, India has only completed 71km of the 605km Terai road.
With Prachanda's visit, India has increased the commitment for constructing 50 thousand houses from Rs 2 lakh per unit to 3 lakh.
With Prachanda, a good start seems to have been made, but India will remain wary of the neighbour it often took for granted. Prachanda is a Maoist and is close to Beijing, even though Chinese premiere has called off a scheduled trip to Kathmandu, reportedly over Nepal not toeing the Chinese line.