Neighbourhood friends

India, Afghanistan, Nepal: Many common goals
The two high-level visits by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ to India in the last week has highlighted the strategic importance of both the countries in India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. New Delhi’s outreach to war-torn Afghanistan for both military and economic aid in recent years has seen a new beginning in bilateral ties, more so as the latter is experiencing a strained relationship with Pakistan. In June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Afghanistan made a sort of history, with the inauguration of the Afghan-India Friendship Dam, earlier known as Salma Dam, built by India at a cost of Rs 1,700 crore.
As the dam will irrigate nearly 75,000 hectares of land and produce 42 megawatts of power, it will soon provide a boost to the development of the country’s impoverished energy sector. Also, New Delhi’s supply of four Russian Mi-25 attack helicopters to Kabul last year, underlines the increasing defence cooperation between the two nations. Delhi’s promise of economic aid of one billion dollars to Kabul, will help the reconstruction projects in that country. Afghanistan’s tilt towards India is also marked by its growing disillusionment with Pakistan, as Ghani has not been able to receive support from that neighbour either for bringing the Taliban and the Haqqani Network to the negotiating table or for nabbing recent terror suspects who are operating from Pakistani territory. Pakistan refuses to accept the responsibility for the clandestine jihadists fanning out from its soil, and this has damaged its relationship with Afghanistan. Herein, Afghanistan and India have a strong common cause to be united as both nations are serious victims of terror coming from Pakistan.
When it comes to Nepal, the goodwill tour of Prime Minister Prachanda will reinvigorate India’s ties with the Himalayan nation, badly affected by the anti-India policies of the previous regime of KP Sharma Oli till recently. Prachanda’s efforts to repair the partnership with New Delhi depend greatly on his Government’s success in resolving issues that have troubled the bilateral. As of now, addressing the grievances of the Madhesis and the Janjatis is the foremost priority.
While it is for his regime to find a way ahead, he will do well to keep India’s advice on having an inclusive Constitution, in mind. He has to set right Nepal’s economic situation and draft a new friendship treaty with India. Besides three new agreements, India’s decision to extend an additional $750 million through a Line of Credit to Nepal will help various infrastructure and hydroelectricity projects in the land-locked country. It may so happen that India, Afghanistan and Nepal can work out a common strategy to tighten their partnership around issues like terrorism, security, economic development and energy.
This potential ‘trilateral’ can see the three nations reaching out to one another, both in times of peace and crisis.

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