The planned visit of the Indian army chief to Nepal in early November will hopefully lift the icy chill that had descended on India-Nepal relations following the publication of a new map by Nepal in May — it had included the Indian territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpyadhura in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, a sensitive region bordering Tibet and Nepal.
The visit is a welcome development. Prime Minister Oli of Nepal has also recently reshuffled his cabinet and divested Ishwar Pokharel of the defence portfolio. Pokharel was very critical of a statement by our army chief at a webinar in May, suggesting that Nepal had raised the boundary issue with India at the behest of someone else, hinting at China.
The Nepalese army chief had wisely refrained from commenting on the issue. The visit provides an important opportunity to strengthen army-to-army relations, a key pillar of the overall India-Nepal relationship.
General MM Naravane’s visit also holds symbolic significance. In keeping with the tradition of bestowing the rank of honorary general to each other’s army chiefs, the President of Nepal will host a special investiture ceremony to honour Naravane.
Equally significant, this will be the first high-level visit between the two countries this year. Some initial and preliminary steps to improve the atmosphere surrounding the relationship included a telephone conversation between the two Prime Ministers on Independence Day