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February 12, 2020

Report of the 2nd India-Nepal Bilateral Dialogue

February 12-13, 2020

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Nepal and India – Cooperation for Mutual Growth & Prosperity

The relationship between India and Nepal is rooted in deep historic and civilizational connect. The two have been natural allies with their harmonious equation dating back to the earliest record of history. India and Nepal go beyond the official machinery in New Delhi and Kathmandu. The strong people-to-people connect has enabled deep, uninterrupted exchanges across a long and open border. Over the centuries, this flow of people has led to networks of kinship, often termed as the ‘roti-beti’ relationship. It has created religious, linguistic and cultural bonds, enabling the flow of ideas, and generated economic inter-dependence.

The organic blend of people-to-people ties and state-to-state relationship, at such close proximity, lends the Indo-Nepalese relations a unique intimacy. This intimacy has, admittedly, generated its own complexities and stress. There has been apprehensions against the Indian commitment in the Nepalese minds. But despite the occasional lows, the story of the Indo-Nepalese bond is one of resilience, optimism, depth, linkages, friendship, security, and most importantly, trust between the people belonging to these two countries. It is to strengthen these bonds and clear the apprehensions and misperceptions that India Foundation, Neeti Anusandhan Pratisthan and Nepal-India Chambers of Commerce & Industry collaborated to organize the second edition of India-Nepal bilateral dialogue in Lucknow, India, from February 12-13, 2020, on the theme “Nepal And India – Cooperation For Mutual Growth & Prosperity”.

Inaugural Session

The inaugural session of the bilateral dialogue was presided by Shri Raj Kishor Yadav, Member, House of Representative, Federal Parliament; former Cabinet Minister, Nepal; Member of Presidium Rashtriya Janata Party, Nepal; Shri Shaurya Doval, Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation; and Ms. Nalini Gyawali, General Secretary, Neeti Anusandhan Pratishthan, Nepal.

Shri Raj Kishor Yadav while delivering the inaugural address laid emphasis on strengthening the socio-political ties between India and Nepal. Amongst other aspects, he stressed on digital technologies and the role it can play in strengthening the bond between the two countries.

In his address, Shri Shaurya Doval highlighted the importance of India-Nepal relations and the need to incorporate the emerging issues from this dialogue in policy making. He stressed on the fact that the policy discussions should look at the present while being future-oriented and come up with a blueprint for a prosperous future for both the countries.

Ms. Nalini Gyawali focused her address on the interdependency between India and Nepal. Highlighting the economic and trade angle, she mentioned the ongoing cooperative developmental projects between the two countries and the role they play in strengthening the relationship.

Session I | Civilizational Links: Reviving the Ancient Bonds

Chairperson: Dr Ramesh Kumar Dhungel, Executive Chairman at Lumbini College of Buddhism and Himalayan Studies, Nepal.

Panelists:

  • Shri Tarun Vijay, former Member of Parliament & former Editor, Panchjanya, India
  • Prof Krishna Chandra Sharma, Professor of English at Central Department of English, Kirtipur, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
  • Shri Guru Prakash, Advisor, Dalit Chambers of Commerce, India
  • Shri Deep Kumar Upadhyay, former Minister and former Ambassador of Nepal to India.

Shri Tarun Vijay highlighted the role Nepal played in the civilizational history of India. Discussing the relationship between neighboring countries, he stressed on the need for the two countries to work together in protecting the interest of Hindus living as minorities across the Asian countries and work for their freedoms and rights.

Prof Krishna Chandra Sharma brought to discussion the deep rooted ancestral bonds between India and Nepal and the similarity in Krishna Yajurveda followed in Pashupatinath Temple and southern India.

In his address, Shri Guru Prakash drew inspiration from Mata Sita as a beacon of feminism and suggested that India and Nepal take the lead in establishing a gender study center focusing on cultural, political and social gender justice. He also laid stress on the need to develop youth initiatives for further strengthening the bonds between the two countries.

Shri Deep Kumar Upadhyay, in his address compared the importance of India-Nepal relationship as opposed to other bordering countries. He focused on the need to strengthen the people-to-people connect which will make resolution of minor issues relatively easier.

Session II | Sharing the Federal Experience in Nepal and India

Chairperson: Dr. Minendra Rijal, Member, House of Representative, Federal Parliament, Nepal; former Cabinet Minister, Nepal

Panelists:

  • Shri Shreekrishna Aniruddh Gautam, Political Analyst, Columnist, former Advisor to the Prime Minister of Nepal
  • Shri Tarun Vijay, former Member of Parliament; former Editor, Panchjanya, India
  • Shri Khim Lal Devkota, former Member, Interim Constitution Drafting Committee; Senior Leader of Nepal Communist of Party
  • Shri Siddharth Nath Singh, Cabinet Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh, India.

Shri Shreekrishna Aniruddh Gautam commenced his address by highlighting the similarity in cultural identities of the two countries despite the different political identities. In his address, he focused on various factors that made Nepal adopt a federal structure of power sharing. He also discussed the equal opportunity of representation it creates for the Nepalese people.

While focusing on the need for Nepal to evolve a pluralistic model, Shri Tarun Vijay suggested a need for a serious dialogue on political reforms. He cautioned against the building of the foundation of the two countries on the denial of dharma and suggested that dharma should be the cornerstone for setting the federal, cultural and political structure in India and Nepal.

Shri Khim Lal Devkota laid stress on the achievements of Nepalese Constitution. He brought to light the importance of Part V and Part XX of the Constitution. He said that federalism is a solution to manage the challenging diversity of Nepal. According to him the failure to accept this solution will reinforce the divide in the country.

In his address, Shri Siddharth Nath Singh focused on the division of power and how the structure of the Indian constitution has benefitted the country by preserving the diversity. He also highlighted the need for a constitution to focus on administrative issues as opposed to indigenous ones for being efficient in normal functioning of a country.

Session III | Inclusive Democracy: Experiences of India and Nepal

Chairperson: Prof SD Muni, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Panelists:

  • Dr Priti Kumari Mandal, Assistant Professor Faculty of Education, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Nepal
  • Shri Sudhanshu Trivedi, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, India
  • Dr Mrigendra Bahadur Karki, Executive Director, Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Nepal
  • Shri Guru Prakash, Advisor, Dalit Chambers of Commerce, India.

Describing the democracy of Nepal as economically, socially, culturally and politically diverse, Dr Priti Kumari Mandal highlighted the historical and geographical profile of Nepal. She also mentioned the various efforts taken by Nepalese government for ensuring inclusive democracy.

Shri Sudhanshu Trivedi speaking about the Indian experience with inclusive democracy highlighted its three facets – social, cultural and eco-political inclusion. Highlighting India as the symbol of inclusiveness, he said that a country can sustain itself for centuries only if it preserves its foundational roots.

In his address, Dr Mrigendra Bahadur Karki remarked that Nepal’s constitutional provisions define inclusion based on the Nepalese civilizational roots. He highlighted the geopolitical priorities of Nepal along with the cultural ones that define the socio-political affairs of the country.

Shri Guru Prakash brought to discussion the political inclusiveness in India at the local administration level. Expanding on the theme, he also highlighted the initiatives taken by non-governmental civil society organizations that promote inclusivity of varied identities in India across economic, social and political fronts.

Session IV | Extra-Regional & Security Dimensions of Indo-Nepalese Relations

Chairperson: Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma (Retd.), Indian Army

Panelists:

  • Major General Binoj Basnyat (Retd.), Nepal Army
  • Shri Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation, India
  • Dr Chandra Dev Bhatta, Adjunct Faculty Member, PBU, Nepal
  • Shri Prafulla Ketkar, Editor, Organiser, India

In his address Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma laid emphasis on the need to reinvent the word ‘security’ as the changing times demand conceptual clarity on the same. He also highlighted the need to keep the aspirational nature of the two countries, India and Nepal in focus in order to sustain the maturity in their relationship.

Major General Binoj Basnyat highlighted the need for the two countries to cooperate in specific areas such as military training, disaster management, medical assistance and establishment of National Defence University. He also stressed on the need to review the security arrangement between India and Nepal.

Shri Alok Bansal brought to discussion the intertwined security complex of India and Nepal due to the open borders between the two. He emphasized the need to form protocols for dealing with fugitives and cautioned on being wary of political forces that try to exploit the relations between both the countries.

In his address, Dr Chandra Dev Bhatta brought to focus the security arrangements between India and Nepal. He highlighted the geographical and political factors that affect the security concerns and focused on the need for continuous dialogue between the countries to strengthen the relations.

Shri Prafulla Ketkar, emphasized on the need to decolonize the strategic understanding emanating out of extra-regional issues such as religious identity and fundamentalism. He was of the view that the spiritual democracy of both the countries could assist in resolving the security concerns.

Session V | Cross-border Connectivity and Freedom of Movement

Chairperson: Prof SD Muni, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Panelists:

  • Major General Binoj Basnyat (Retd.), Nepal Army
  • Dr Nisha Taneja, Professor, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, New Delhi, India
  • Shri Ramesh Kharel, former DIG, Nepal Police
  • Shri Kharat Rajesh Shrikrishna, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

Major General Binoj Basnyat, commenced his address by highlighting the connectivity potentials created by the open borders between India and Nepal. Focusing on transport connectivity he emphasized on creating safe and secure environment along the border region.

Dr Nisha Taneja in her address focused on people-to-people connectivity, transport connectivity, financial connectivity, media connectivity and tourism connectivity. She brought to discussion various facets in these larger domains that can strengthen the relationship between India and Nepal.

Focusing on the cross-border illegal activities, Shri Ramesh Kharel highlighted the misuse of open borders by criminals. He focused on the need for trust-building measures to enhance the mutual people-to-people connectivity in a safe and secure environment, while adapting policy interventions to better deal with open border issues.

In his address, Shri Kharat Rajesh Shrikrishna discussed the Border Line Communities Project and the observations concluded from it. He brought to light institutional interventions that can be implemented to develop stronger economic and social bonds.

Session VI | Assuring Mutual Growth & Economic Prosperity

Chairperson: Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal

Panelists:

  • Nisha Taneja, Professor, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, New Delhi, India
  • Shri Deep Kumar Upadhyay, former Minister and Former Ambassador of Nepal to India
  • Shri Saket Misra, CEO, Venus Assets Pvt Ltd, India
  • Shri Ravi Shankar Sainju, Former Joint Secretary (Bilateral and Regional Trade Division), Ministry of Industry, Commerce & Supply, Nepal.

Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Chairman stressed upon the dominant economic prowess of  the Indian subcontinent since the medieval times. Speaking about the India-Nepal relations, he remarked that mutual aspirational goals of the two countries can surely be achieved by shared prosperity.

Dr. Nisha Taneja stressed upon the several fronts where Nepal is flourishing such as trade, investment and connectivity which also opens up opportunities for India. She focused on the need for Nepal to address the ambiguities in concessions made under SAFTA and also address the ambiguities in information sharing between the two.

In his address, Shri Deep Kumar Upadhyay focused on stronger cross-border transmission, hydropower generation, formal economic engagements and hassle-free trade. He stressed on the need for the two countries to resolve the outstanding issues in order to achieve shared prosperity.

Shri Saket Misra emphasized on the need to build up a degree of coordination and ecosystem that can stand the future changes. He suggested that India could help Nepal in establishing things like organic farming structure, digital supply chain and economic circuit to facilitate conducive trade ecosystem between the two countries.

Shri Ravi Shankar Sainju suggested the need for Nepal to root out the structural problems in its industrial sector. He highlighted the market potential between the two countries that can be revived by reviewing the international trade treaty.

Special Address

In a special address, Dr. Mahendra Singh, Jal Shakti Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh, India, highlighted the importance of cultural connectivity of Pashupatinath to Varanasi, Janakpur to Ayodhya and Kathmandu to Karnataka. In his address he focused on the important role Nepal has played in the financial, social and political standing of India. He remarked that India and Nepal must approach their individual relationship with other countries in the world by keeping their bilateral relationship as the bedrock.

Valedictory Session

The valedictory session of the 2nd India-Nepal Bilateral Dialogue was hosted by Shri Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh at his residence. This session was also graced by Shri Ram Madhav Varanasi, National General Secretary, Bharatiya Janata Party; Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation and Dr. Shashank Koirala, General Secretary, Nepali Congress and Member, House of Representative, Federal Parliament, Nepal. The session was conducted by Shri Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation and the vote of thanks was delivered by Shri Deepak Kumar Adhikari, Executive Director, Neeti Anusandhan Pratishthan, Nepal.

In the valedictory address, Shri Yogi Adityanath laid emphasis on the ancestral heritage that connects the two nations and the responsibility to strengthen it in current times. He highlighted the opportunities in sectors such as hydropower, solar power, etc. and the role it can play in strengthening the relations. He also focused on the Indo-Nepalese tourism potential, especially religious tourism.

Shri Ram Madhav Varanasi in his address highlighted that when India grows it aims to benefit its neighbors also. Emphasizing on keeping a humanitarian angle, he remarked that both the countries have a natural relationship and that the two are not divided by political border but are linked with civilizational history.

Appreciating the efforts of promoting spiritual tourism by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Shashank Koirala stressed on the need for India and Nepal to strengthen their socio-cultural democratic ties. This strengthening will act as a bridge for development of both the nations.

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