Kathmandu – Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukunda Naravane is arriving in Kathmandu on a three-day official visit to Nepal on November 4.
Naravane is visiting Nepal at the invitation of Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) General Purnachandra Thapa. The visit is taking place in the wake of border disputes between the two neighbours after India published its new political map including Nepali territory on November 2, 2019.
Although the Nepali Army has stated that the visit of Indian Army Chief Naravane is regular and traditional, it is being viewed from different angles owing to the border dispute which has escalated for about a year.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari is scheduled to confer the honorary title of Chief General of Nepali Army on Indian Army Chief Naravane on November 5.
According to the Directorate of Public Relations and Information, Indian Army Chief Naravane is coming to Nepal as a part of tradition of honouring the Chief of Army Staff of India in Nepal and vice-versa.
The Nepali Army has already given official information that Naravane is coming to Nepal to receive the honourary title but it should be understood that his visit won’t be limited to that.
Indian Army Chief Naravane was dragged into a controversy as on May 15 he stated that Nepal had raised the issue of India’s encroachment of Lipulek, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura at the behest of someone else, implicating China. At a conference in India, he claimed that India had built a road west of the Kali River, adding that there was no point for Nepal to object.
Less than a month after making such remark, he corrected his statement and said that Nepal-India relations were strong and would continue to be so in the future. Meanwhile, Nepal repeatedly sent formal letters for talks with India. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had held a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on
August 15 to resolve the dispute. Even after that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued follow-ups for talks. Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra visited New Delhi and reported Nepal’s call to the Indian government.
A month after Kwatra’s return from New Delhi, Samant Kumar Goel, head of the Indian external intelligence agency RAW, arrived in Nepal on October 21. He had a meeting with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on the same day.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, the talks between Prime Minister Oli and RAW chief Goel focused on the Nepal-India relations, border issues and the release of a new political map. During the discussion, Prime Minister Oli reiterated Nepal’s position and presented a clear vision on behalf of Nepal for resolving the issue.
Prime Minister Oli said that a solution should be found through talks on the basis of facts and historical evidences. RAW chief Goel welcomed Prime Minister Oli’s remarks and concurred that solution should be sought through talks.
According to DPM Pokhrel, Prime Minister Oli, who also holds the Defence portfolio, will hold talks with Indian Army Chief Naravane during which the border issue will most likely surface. Analysts say that Goel had come to Nepal to prepare for that.
Dr. Rajan Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, talking to The Rising Nepal, said, “It is gratifying for the two countries that the Indian Army Chief Naravane is visiting Nepal and it should be taken as a sign to maintain smooth political and cultural relations between the two countries.”
As the visit is taking place at the invitation of the Chief of the Army Staff of Nepali Army, it can be considered as a continuation of the purely traditional culture, Dr. Bhattarai said.
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Vivek Kumar Shah, chairman of Nepal Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS), said the upcoming visit of the Indian Army Chief should be perceived positively. Shah said that the government should have a clear view on the political and bilateral relations of the country.
He suggested that Nepal take advantage of Naravane’s visit even through utilising military diplomacy.
In 2015, when India imposed an economic blockade on Nepal, then Chief of the Nepali Army Rajendra Chhetri had visited India which played a vital role to improve relations and lift the embargo.