From 1989 blockade to 2015 superfast aid: India's Nepal policy has come of age

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India's fast response to Nepal's crisis in the wake of a devastating earthquake has signalled the beginning of a new era in the relation between the two neighbours.

Rajiv Gandhi govt had imposed a blockade on Nepal in 1989-1990

If the Narendra Modi's government superfast initiative to reach out to the distressed people of Nepal is a reality today, this reality marks a 180-degree departure from the March 1989-April 1990 phase when the Rajiv Gandhi government had imposed an economic blockade on the small Himalayan country. Has India's Nepal policy really come of age? [After China-Pakistan bonhomie, India rushes to Nepal]

Relief Material Is Loaded Into An Indian Air Force Aircraft Headed To Nepal

Nepal's economy was crippled by the blockade

In April 1989, following a dispute over negotiating lapsed trade and transit treaties with Kathmandu, New Delhi abruptly shut 19 of 21 border crossings with Nepal, cutting off links to the Kolkata port, which served as the only sea outlet to the land-locked nation, as well as several North Indian cities. The 13-month long blockade had a devastating effect on Nepal's economy and cornered the powerful monarchy. [Children's faces haunt rescuers]

The reason for the strained relation between India and Nepal was that while the former wanted a single agreement, Nepal sought two links to distinguish between important transit rights from trade and commercial agreements with India. The twin accords were made as a result of concessions made by a previous government under Morarji Desai. [Nepal earthquake updates: Day 3]

Nepal had proposed a new trade treaty which would include no special concessions but only a most-favoured-nation status, putting economic relations with the bigger neighbour on a more equal footing. India did not respond.

It was said that India was upset with Nepal's closeness with China

Kathmandu felt the trade disagreement was only a pretext for New Delhi to take such a punishing step. The actual reason was Nepal's growing closeness with China which saw it led to buying Chinese anti-aircraft guns in August 1988, it was said.

Narendra Modi govt has opted for competitive diplomacy vis-a-vis Nepal

In April 2015, India is extending unconditional help to Nepal to overcome its crisis. Even though China still eyes Nepal to expand its sphere of influence in South Asia, India has shown a maturity this time by not opting for coercive diplomacy and focused on competitive diplomacy.

Policy-makers in New Delhi have understood well that by taking unilateral decisions as it had done in 1988, it would only alienate its neighbour as has happened in Sri Lanka where also the Modi government is trying to regain its lost ground.

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