Amid tension, Army chief Naravane to visit Nepal to “repair ties”

Naravane’s choice for the first high-level Indian visit to Kathmandu since the boundary row is significant because he had accused Nepal of acting at the “behest of someone else” — an oblique reference to China

General MM Naravane
During the visit, Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari will confer the rank of the Honorary General of the Nepal Army on Gen Naravane -- a 70-year-old tradition, a reciprocal arrangement between the two armies since 1950.

Army chief General MM Naravane will visit Kathmandu next month, a first by a high-level Indian delegation to the Himalayan country since the boundary dispute escalated this summer.

Dates to the visit have not been announced yet, but the Nepal Army confirmed the visit on Wednesday. The Nepal army said the visit was originally scheduled for February 3, but “was postponed due to lockdown in both the countries”.

Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier General Santosh Poudel said that during the visit, Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari will confer the rank of the Honorary General of the Nepal Army on Gen Naravane — it’s a 70-year-old tradition, a reciprocal arrangement between the two armies since 1950.

General Naravane had recently commented that Nepal was acting at the “behest of someone else” — an oblique reference to China — which complicated relations between India and China amid tensions over the boundary issue.

Nepal Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel called the statement “insulting… ignoring Nepal’s history, our social characteristics and freedom”.

The KP Sharma Oli government got upset over India opening new road from Dharchula to Lipulekh on the Mansarovar Yatra route. In response, the Nepalese government drew a new map of Nepal, adding to it an area of 370 sq km at the tri-junction of Nepal, India and China (Tibet) which India maintains is its territory.

The issue snowballed into a controversy and led to breakdown of communication between the two old allies.

Also read: Nepal’s Parliament passes bill to redraw map incorporating 3 Indian areas

But a recent telephonic talk between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Oli has opened channels for rapprochement between the two countries.

In August 17, Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and Indian ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra held discussions to review projects funded by the Indian government.

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