Naravane’s visit


As the highest political leaderships of Nepal and India are yet to come to terms over Nepal’s assertive move to recover its encroached territories in the far-west, military diplomacy has been activated to open communication channel to get their bilateral relations back on track. Like during the 2015 Indian economic blockade, armies of the two nations have come on the scene to reset the ties between the two ‘democracies.’ It is interesting to note that the civilian governments take recourse to military dialogue to overcome their serious bilateral deadlock, which only exposes structural flaws in the age-old relationship.

Given that the two armies have fostered intimate relationships for years, it is not unnatural for them to utilise their good offices to resolve the tension at the highest level of leadership. The upcoming visit of India’s Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukunda Naravane to Nepal in early November has been viewed in this perspective. Naravane will basically come here to receive the honorary rank of General of the Nepali Army. It has been a tradition that Nepal and India confer the title of honorary chief of army staff to the chiefs of the armies of the other country.

Nepal and India, historically two close and friendly neighbors, have been experiencing strained relations for some time. After the latest dispute about the Kalapani border area, Nepal has made unsuccessful attempts to re-set friendly ties through diplomatic negotiations. With continuing deadlock at the political and diplomatic levels, the announcement of this highest level Indian visit since the latest rift is a piece of welcome news. This visit can open the door for diplomatic negotiations. Naravane’s visit does carry meaning and message. He is the highest level official to visit Nepal since the two nations got embroiled in their fierce battle of maps. The borderland row between the two nations started to simmer after India revoked Article 370 of its constitution and issued a new administrative map by incorporating Nepal’s territories within it. India paid no attention to Nepal’s protests against its expansionist adventurism.

It was shell-shocked when Nepal updated its own political map including Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura, which according to the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 belong to Nepal but these strategic sites have been controlled by India since the early 1960s. India faced an unexpected challenge from a small neighbour which it has been trying to convert into a cliental state especially on the back of the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty. That is why, despite pressure from many quarters, NA Chief Gen. Purna Chandra Thapa demonstrated maturity and pragmatism by refusing to make any remarks in public in response to his Indian counterpart’s comments.

This wisdom helped create the environment for this long-stalled visit to take place now. Successful completion of the visit now can create a conducive environment for stalled negotiations between Nepal and India. Such successful defense diplomacy by NA and its leadership can ultimately serve the cause of national interest and security by contributing in restoring the friendly ties with India and hopefully transforming this vital relation even higher for greater mutual benefits of both sides in the future.

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