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Nilambar Acharya set to be Nepal's envoy to India: Politician well-versed with diplomacy can thaw strained ties

Former Nepali law minister Nilambar Acharya is now the hill State's envoy to India. The Nepal government nominated him to take over the post, which was lying vacant for about a year now after Deep Kumar Upadhyay resigned October last year to join politics.

A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli proposed Acharya's name for the diplomatic post, officials said. However, Acharya's appointment by the leading Nepali Communist Party came as a surprise for many owing to his well-known affiliation to the Nepali Congress Party.

File image of Nilambar Acharya. Firstpost Hindi

File image of Nilambar Acharya. Firstpost Hindi

His appointment could be seen as a positive development towards betterment of India-Nepal ties. A senior politician, Acharya has seen the nascent democracy in Nepal grow and evolve. He was also centrally involved in furthering India-Nepal ties at a time when relations between two nations hit a rock-bottom.

Achayra currently coordinates the Nepal side of the Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations (EPG-NIR), is a joint mechanism consisting experts and intellectuals from Nepal and India that was set up to provide necessary suggestions to update all existing bilateral treaties and agreements. The group is also currently working on reviewing several bilateral agreements including the crucial Peace and Friendship Treaty signed in 1950.

India-Nepal ties hit the bedrock in the early phase of Narendra Modi-led government just when the mountain nation was formulating its Constitution. India decided to pressurise Nepal into including demands of the Madhesi tribe of the Terai region, which in turn earned it the ire of the Nepali political elite, and the indigenous Nepalese living in the hill region.

India tried to take a tough stance, as it allegedly tacitly supported Madhesi protests leading to a four-month-long blockade along the Nepali border hindering supplies of even essential goods for which Nepal is dependent on India. The resultant backlash from its 'special friend' that India earned meant that it lost out on an ally in the neighbourhood, failed to protect the rights of Madhesis and gave the political class in the state an opportunity to cannibalise on a strong anti-India sentiment. Thus, 'pro-china' KP Sharma Oli came to power riding on a 'nationalistic' wave.

Another low point in the two countries' ties was when Nepal recalled its then ambassador to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay in May 2016 and unilaterally cancelled Nepali president's scheduled visit to India. The Nepali government had reportedly not informed the ambassador of the visit, and also accused him of being active in Kathmandu and New Delhi in trying to topple the Oli-led government.

The Nepal mission in New Delhi has been without an ambassador since October 2017, when Upadhyay left to run for office. The vacancy at Nepali mission in India fuelled speculations about Oli's continued hostility towards India.

However, New Delhi may expect a change in winds with the appointment of Acharya as he is aware of the sensitivity of ties between the two nations.

A Moscow University graduate, Acharya was initially Left-leaning but later joined the Nepali Congress party, which is considered relatively warmer towards New Delhi. Acharya was minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Labour and Social Welfare in the interim government of 1990.

A former envoy to Sri Lanka, Acharya also comes with hands-on experience in managing and furthering diplomatic relations in the capacity of an envoy.

Acharya's name will now be sent to a parliamentary committee for approval, which then will forward it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The Nepal's MFA will then send it to its Indian counterpart Ministry of External Affairs for an agreemo. Once approved and agreemo signed, the MFA will send Acharya's name to the Nepal president for the presidential order.

The government had previously nominated former Chief Election Commissioner Neelkantha Uprety as ambassador to India. But following criticism within Nepal, it withdrew the decision. According to The Indian Express, Upreti, after his retirement as CEC, was associated with the Niti Pratisthan, a political foundation backed by the Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh in Nepal, which, on occasion, has closely worked with the Delhi-based India Foundation.

With inputs from PTI


Updated Date: Nov 13, 2018 17:01 PM

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