Navigating Regional Geopolitical Dilemmas: India’s Foreign Secretary’s Visit to Nepal

India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra made a two-day visit to Nepal on February 13-14, intending to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries. This was Kwatra’s first visit to Nepal since assuming the position of Foreign Secretary in May 2022. Also, “The meeting marked the first high-level interaction between India and Nepal since the new government led by left coalition took charge in Nepal since December 26, 2022″.

The visit began with a meeting between Kwatra and his Nepalese counterpart, Bharat Raj Paudyal. During the meeting, the two foreign secretaries discussed various issues of mutual interest, including economic cooperation, trade and investment, border management, and security cooperation. The discussions focused on enhancing cross-border connectivity, primarily through the development of inland Railways and road networks.

Kwatra and Paudyal also discussed the need to increase the frequency of high-level visits between the two countries to enhance communication and promote cooperation in various sectors. The two parties addressed how to improve collaboration in the areas of energy, tourism, infrastructure development, and connectivity while also reviewing the progress that had been made on various projects within the framework of bilateral cooperation. They expressed appreciation for the advancements made in carrying out the respective projects and programs, especially the cross-border connectivity initiatives. They also exchanged views on regional and global issues, including the ongoing political situation in the region.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening India-Nepal ties relationship and deepening cooperation in various fields. They also stressed the need to work together to promote peace, stability, and economic growth in the region.

High Level Exchange’s: Way to Strengthen Bilateral Ties

Secretary Kwatra held talks with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal, two deputy prime ministers Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Rajendra Lingden, foreign minister Bimala Rai Poudel, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur. In addition, he had meetings with Congress leaders like Shekhar Koirala, Purna Bahadur Khadka, Bal Krishna Khand, and Hridayesh Tripathi, head of the Nepal Progressive Party, and discussed and reviewed the status of the Nepal-India ties”. Also, various issues of mutual interest were discussed, highlighting the possibility of energy trade and the completion of rail connectivity.

During the visit Kwatra conveyed India’s commitment to supporting Nepal in its economic development Nepal’s development priorities and emphasized the importance of working together to address common challenges. In addition to the meetings with government officials, Kwatra also met with representatives of the Nepalese business community and civil society organizations. The discussions focused on ways to promote economic and people-to-people ties between the two countries.

Navigating Regional Geopolitical Dilemma:

The visit was significant from a geopolitical perspective as it comes at a time when both India and Nepal are seeking to navigate through complex regional geopolitical dynamics.

From a geopolitical perspective, the visit assumes significance in the backdrop of a rapidly evolving regional environment, marked by the rise of China as a dominant power in the region and the growing assertiveness of smaller states in the neighborhood. Nepal, which is sandwiched between India and China, has been attempting to balance its relations with both countries while pursuing its own strategic interests.

In the recent past, China has stepped up its footprint in the South Asia, which is the traditional sphere of influence of New Delhi since a long ago. Having shared a year’s old historic ties and being the immediate neighbor bordering China, Nepal is one of India’s important partner in diverse issues. Having Kathmandu on its camp, New Delhi can leverage such presence in navigating the complex regional geopolitical dilemma, which could ultimately be crucial in balancing regional power dynamics.

Upheavals in Relation, Yet Important Development Partner

India and Nepal share a long and porous border and have historically enjoyed close economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties. However, in recent years, the relationship has been marked by occasional strains, particularly over Nepal’s adoption of a new constitution in 2015, which India saw as discriminatory towards the Madhes community. This led to a blockage of essential supplies to Nepal, which caused severe hardship to its people and strained the reciporcal relationship. Also, the Nepalese government released a new political map that included the disputed territory of Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura, and Kalapani, which was strongly objected to by India.

India is one of the most important development partner of Nepal since a long back. However there have also been some issues related to trade and transit, with Nepal seeking greater access to Indian ports and roadways connectivity to various dry ports. Also, ” Nepal has reiterated its request to India to provide additional air-entry routes and early concurrence of the near border flight operation of the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa.”

Talks over a Nepal-India air route have been going back and forth despite the fact that Nepal has been requesting one about a decade back, since it was first discussed at the highest level with India. Because of the Indian government’s apparent reluctance to provide additional air entry routes, Nepal’s recently constructed international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara are no longer financially feasible.

The visit of Kwatra to Nepal is seen as a significant step towards addressing some of these concerns and strengthening the mutual relationship. During the talks, both sides emphasized the need for enhancing economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges. They also discussed the possibility of jointly developing cross-border infrastructure projects, such as the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project and the proposed Kathmandu-Raxaul Railway line. “Also, the two sides agreed to the early completion and operationalization of the remaining sections of the Jayanagar-Kurtha-Bijalpura-Bardibas and the Jogbani-Biratnagar rail links and committed to expediting the procedural requirements to enable their early implementation.”

Delicate Strategic Balancing:

From a strategic perspective, the visit is also significant as it comes at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence in Nepal and other countries in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Nepal is a crucial partner in China’s BRI, and Chinese investment in Nepal has increased significantly in recent years. India has been wary of China’s growing influence in its neighborhood and has been seeking to counterbalance it through its own development assistance and strategic partnerships.

Against this backdrop, the visit of Kwatra to Nepal can be seen as a step towards consolidating India’s strategic presence in the region and countering China’s growing influence. India has been providing development assistance to Nepal in a range of sectors, and has also been working closely with Nepal in the areas of security and defense cooperation.


In conclusion, the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra to Nepal on February 13-14 assumes significant geopolitical importance, as it comes at a time when both India and Nepal are seeking to navigate through complex regional power dynamics marked by the rise of China and the growing assertiveness of smaller states. The visit is aimed at strengthening the bilateral relationship and consolidating India’s strategic presence in the region while also countering China’s growing influence. The Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit to Nepal was widely reported on by the local media, and it was viewed as a positive development in the advancement of relations between the two nations. The visit provided an opportunity for both sides to exchange views on various issues and explore avenues for further cooperation and the talks between the two sides focused on enhancing economic cooperation and exploring avenues for further cooperation, including people-to-people exchanges, and jointly developing cross-border infrastructure projects, which could pave the way for greater cooperation and mutual benefit in the future.

Avinav Singh Khatri
Avinav Singh Khatri
AVINAV SINGH KHATRI is a research intern at Nepal Institute for International Co-operation and Engagement (NIICE) and holds a Master's degree in International Studies from Symbiosis School of International Studies, Pune. His research interests include political and peacebuilding affairs, governance, foreign policy, social justice, and humanitarian and development issues.