New Delhi: In a U-turn of sorts, Army chief M.M. Naravane Saturday said the relationship between India and Nepal has “always been strong” and “will remain strong in the future”, hours before the Nepal parliament is scheduled to pass a constitutional amendment bill to adopt their new controversial political map in their national emblem.
Last month, General Naravane had stated that Nepal was ratcheting up the Lipulekh border issue at the “behest of someone else and that is very much possible”, insinuating Chinese interference. The Indian Army has been locked in a military stand-off with China near the Line of Actual Control around Pangong lake since 5 May.
“We have a very strong relationship with Nepal. We have geographical, cultural, historical, religious linkages. We have very strong people to people connect. Our relation with them has always been strong and will remain strong in the future,” Naravane said at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) Saturday. Naravane was there to attend a passing out parade.
We have a very strong relationship with Nepal. We have geographical, cultural, historical, religious linkages. We have very strong people to people connect. Our relation with them has always been strong and will remain strong in the furture: Army chief General MM Naravane pic.twitter.com/rfiybiOrnE
— ANI (@ANI) June 13, 2020
Army chief’s timing
The remarks come on a day when the House of Representatives, or Nepal’s lower house of parliament, votes for a bill to amend their Constitution to include the disputed regions of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani in its official map.
The bill seeks to amend Schedule 3 of the Nepalese Constitution to reflect the new map, which shows the disputed territories within its borders.
“The Army Chief had really made an unnecessary comment. I think there is some thinking in New Delhi to settle the matters at the level of the both armies at least while political haggling continues,” said S.D. Muni, member of Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses’ executive council and professor emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“Initially, there were talks that the Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat will speak to Nepal’s defence minister. Nevertheless, the matter now seems settled between the armies. Let the politics take its own course.”
Traditionally, due to close relations between both countries, Nepal follows a norm wherein the Indian Army chief is conferred the title of ‘honorary general’ of the Nepal Army.
ThePrint had reported that owing to Naravane’s earlier remarks, Nepal could this time break away from that long-standing tradition.
Nepal’s Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel had called the remarks by the Indian Army Chief an “insulting statement” and said it had “hurt the sentiments of the Nepali Gurkha army personnel who lay down their lives to protect India … It must now become difficult for them to stand tall in front of the Gurkha forces”.
Nepal’s new map
Once the bill is passed in the lower house, the National Assembly, which is Nepal’s upper house of parliament, will take it up. That process will take another week or so, after which, the map will become permanent in their Constitution.
“The damage has been done, there is no doubt about it. The situation has aggravated since he (General Naravane) made those comments. Nepal’s strategic partnership with China is growing across the board and many of the internal political problems in Nepal is being managed by them that is for sure, but for the Indian Army chief to speak like that did not go down well with Nepali people,” said Vijay Kanta Karna, former diplomat and now professor of political science at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University.
Nepal officially released its new political map on 20 May.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.