In an effort to improve relations with Nepal after the ties between both the countries came under severe strain following a bitter border row, the Indian Army Chief MM Naravane will arrive in Nepal on Wednesday on a three-day crucial visit.
Indian officials here say the visit will deepen the long-standing bonds of friendship between the two armies and provide an opportunity for both sides to explore avenues to further strengthen bilateral defence partnership for mutual benefit.
As per reports, Gen Naravane is visiting Nepal at the official invitation of Nepal Army chief Gen Purnachandra Thapa.
Indian Embassy spokesperson Naveen Kumar said that Gen Naravane’s visit “will deepen the long-standing and customary bonds of friendship between the two armies.”
“His visit will provide an opportunity for both sides to discuss the bilateral defence partnership and explore avenues to further strengthen it for mutual benefit.”
Mutual interests between the two armies and bilateral relations will mainly feature during the talk, Nepal Army sources said.
The Indian Army chief will also gift an ambulance and medical equipment for a mobile field hospital to be operated by the Nepal Army.
He will also hold interaction with senior officials at the Nepal Army headquarters.
In the afternoon, the Indian Army chief will be conferred with the honorary rank of General of Nepal Army by President Bidya Devi Bhandari amidst a special ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Reportedly, India’s decision to send the Army Chief to Nepal to reset the ties is seen as a part of a larger exercise by New Delhi to rejuvenate relations with Myanmar, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan in the wake of greater efforts by China to expand its influence in the region.
Relations between the two countries has been tensed since Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new 80km Lipulekh road which serves as the shortest route between capital New Delhi and Kailash-Mansarovar, a revered Hindu pilgrimage site in the Tibetan plateau.
Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, Nepal came out with a new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories.
After Nepal released the map, India reacted sharply, calling it a “unilateral act” and cautioning Kathmandu that such “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it.
The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India.
Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory – India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.