Business Standard

Nepal's 2023: High-level meetings with Indian, Chinese leaderships & quakes

Nepal-India relations got a renewed boost as Prime Minister Prachanda met India's Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra here on February 13

Nepal PM

The bilateral meetings saw the two nations reach an understanding in various areas including trade, transit, energy cooperation and expanding railway links etc

Press Trust of India Kathmandu
After experiencing a turbulent 2022, Nepal witnessed much-needed political stability this year that enabled Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda' to focus on improving relations with its two important neighbours India and China even as he faced the regular staple of Himalayan problems - earthquakes, corruption scandals, and air crashes.
After becoming Prime Minister in December 2022, Prachanda secured the vote of confidence from the House of Representatives on January 10 ending the political impasse amid a power tussle among Nepali political parties with the third largest party CPN-Maoist Centre gaining power and garnering support from the largest party Nepali Congress.
However, Nepal's second-largest party in Parliament, the CPN-UML, on February 27 withdrew its support to the Prachanda-led government following a rift over backing the main opposition party's candidate for the presidential poll. It has had no significant impact on the government.
On March 9, Nepal's Parliament elected Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Poudel, a common candidate of an eight-party alliance that included Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist Centre, as the country's third president after the erstwhile Hindu kingdom turned into a democratic, secular republic in 2008.
Nepal-India relations got a renewed boost as Prime Minister Prachanda met India's Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra here on February 13. Matters relating to cooperation on energy, trade, commerce, connectivity, culture, agriculture, and education were discussed between the two sides.
Starting from May 31, Prachanda was accompanied by Foreign Minister N P Saud on the four-day trip to India, his first foreign trip after assuming office. Prachanda and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi discussed further strengthening cooperative ties existing in diverse areas of Nepal-India relations.
The bilateral meetings saw the two nations reach an understanding in various areas including trade, transit, energy cooperation and expanding railway links etc.
A few weeks down the line, the foreign ministers of Nepal and India met on the sidelines of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) in Bangkok on July 17. India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Nepalese counterpart Saud agreed to work closely to implement the agenda of cooperation set out by the top leadership of the two countries.
Nepalese and Chinese leaders during high-level visits reiterated their commitment to implement the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a 10-year-old project, initiated by China for building land and sea infrastructure in multiple countries.
Nepal and China reached an agreement to accelerate the completion of pending projects previously announced by the Chinese government in 2018 and 2019 to boost infrastructure in the landlocked Himalayan nation.
Prime Minister Prachanda paid an official visit to China in the first week of October during which he held bilateral talks with President Xi Jinping with the discussion mainly focussing on matters relating to bilateral interest and mutual cooperation.
As part of a 10-day China trip, Prachanda and Saud both visited the Kailash Mansarovar region in Tibet and declared to open more routes from western Nepal for which it initiated talks with China for allowing more pilgrims, mainly Indians, that can add much-needed foreign exchange to their exchequer.
Indian mountaineers made headline news in May when four Indians succeeded in scaling Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world. India's Yashi Jain, Mithil Raju, Sunil Kumar and Pinkhi Haris Chhed reached the peak of Everest on May 17. However, a woman climber from India, Suzane Jesus, died on May 18 near the Everest base camp.
In the second half of the year, there was tangible progress in NepalIndia energy cooperation as the Government of India on September 6, in principle, agreed to purchase 10,000 MW of electricity from Nepal within the next 10 years.
Apart from routine governance issues, the Prachanda government also faced a major corruption scandal. On May 24, the Nepal government took action against at least 30 people, including influential political leaders and top bureaucrats, on charges of taking bribes in the fake Bhutanese refugee scandal.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and senior leader of CPN-UML Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and former Home Minister and senior leader of Nepali Congress Balkrishna Khand were among those who were imprisoned for sending Nepalese people to Bhutan providing them Bhutanese citizenship certificates on fake documents.
The year 2023 started with a tragedy as the Yeti Airlines aircraft that took off from Kathmandu on the morning of January 15 crashed in the Seti Gorge of Pokhara with all 72 people on board, including five Indian nationals, and ten other nationals, dead.
Tragedy struck in October too when Nepal evacuated 257 of its stranded students residing in Israel under the Learn and Earn Scheme' as the Hamas terror group launched an unprecedented attack in the Gaza area. Ten Nepalese, who were working there, were killed, and one person is still held captive by the Hamas militant group in Gaza.
Being a Himalayan nation, earthquakes are not new to Nepal. Apart from the multiple smaller magnitude quakes, there were more than half a dozen quakes of over 5.0 magnitude, including those on January 24 (5.9M), February 22 (5.2M), April 1 (5.2M), October 3 (5.3M, 6.3M and 5.1M), October 7 (5.3M), October 22 (6.1M), November 6 (5.8M) but with hardly any deaths.
But nothing could surpass the catastrophic high-magnitude quake in the western Nepal mountain region when at least 154 people were killed in a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit the Jajarkot district on November 3 leaving hundreds injured and thousands rendered homeless. This tremor was followed by multiple quakes over the next few days.
If this was not enough, at least 31 earthquake survivors, living in makeshift tents, died in Jajarkot and Rukum districts due to severe cold soon after the quakes hit western Nepal.
Given the high-altitude topography, especially the Mt Everest region, helicopter crashes are not new either. In 2023, there were three major such crashes: on April 9 with no casualty, on May 5 with three injured, and on July 11 which saw five Mexican and one Nepali pilot dead.
On the financial front, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on June 29 approved a USD 50 million loan to the Nepal government to support the implementation of policy reforms and help improve the Himalayan nation's domestic and international trade with its key economic partners such as India and Bangladesh.
India continued to help Nepal on multiple fronts including building schools, and providing vehicles, not to mention the re-construction of a 5th-century Buddhist Stupa, severely damaged during the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
India was amongst the first to provide at least four sorties of quake relief material after the November quakes to help its immediate neighbour.
On November 29, Nepal became the first South Asian country to officially register same-sex marriage, five months after the country's Supreme Court legalised such marriages.
Ending the last month on a positive note, on December 14, Sewa Lamsal, joint secretary and spokesperson at Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, became the first woman foreign secretary of Nepal.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Dec 29 2023 | 12:49 PM IST

Explore News