Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lumbini at Buddha Purnima was aimed at conveying the shared culture between India and Nepal far more valuable than the money that China spent in Buddha’s birthplace. If the Modi government’s early reliance on Hindu contact to gain influence in Nepal wasn’t the desired effect, then the carefully chosen date and destination of Modi’s fifth visit to Nepal since he became prime minister has been a boost to make up for lost time and opportunity. Another common religion. Lumpini is also where the Chinese presence looms near the Indian border, from a Beijing-funded airport to a Chinese monastery. Announcing a joint India-Nepal plan to give Lumbini its rightful place in the Buddhist circle promoted by Indian tour operators, asserting by the Prime Minister that this was the birthplace of Buddha, laying the foundation stone for an Indian monastery belated attempts to spread Indian soft power to reclaim some space in India’s neighbor in the mountains Himalayan. However, the real potential for transformation in bilateral relations lies via the more moderate path of infrastructure projects. One of the big obstacles in the India-Nepal relationship has been Delhi’s inability to complete agreed infrastructure projects in Nepal, including roads, railways and massive power projects. Over the past few years this has changed.
During his 45-minute meeting with Modi, Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba called on Delhi to take over the long-stalled West Seti hydropower project, which was once taken over by Australia but abandoned, after which China Three Gorges Corporation asked . The bid follows India’s success in the 900MW Arun III hydroelectric project, developed by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), a joint venture between the center and the government of Himachal Pradesh. Another important agreement signed during Modi’s visit was the proposed collaboration between Madras IIT and Kathmandu University for a joint degree program, the second in the higher education sector between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Buddhist University of Lumbini to establish the Dr. Ambedkar Chair in Buddhist Studies.
It is clear that the sporadic works of the agreements in the various sectors signed during the six-hour visit have been well done. Deuba, who replaced KP Sharma Oli as prime minister last year and was in New Delhi for an official visit in April, appears to have had a calming effect on bilateral relations that have been battered by inclement weather in recent years. The prime minister’s remark that bilateral relations are “as stable as the Himalayas” may be more ambitious than subtle and, as a goal, also conveys a sense of the distance that both sides need to go.