Many believe that Nepal-India relations began to sour after that because Modi took the cancellation as a personal affront. Janakpur-based analyst Bhogendra Jha says, “If Modi was allowed to visit Janakpur in 2014, Nepal-India ties would not have sunk so low.”
Between that aborted trip and the one next week, Nepal-India ties have gone through a roller-coaster. Modi tried to arm-twist Nepali leaders into delaying the Constitution, and when that failed he imposed a Blockade on Nepal. Anti-India sentiments ran high in Nepal, undoing gains of Modi’s successful first tip to Nepal in 2014. KP Oli, in turn, used anti-India nationalism to propel himself to power in last year’s elections.
“It all began from Janakpur, but it could also end in Janakapur,” Jha adds. “Modi’s connection to Janakpur marks the end of an unwarranted chapter in Nepal-India relations.”
However, many Nepalis on social media are still calling for Modi to apologise for the Blockade on an earthquake-devastated country in 2015. They also oppose the idea of a civic reception for a leader responsible for wrecking Nepal’s economy.
But there is a different tone in Janakpur. Many there say the Blockade is a thing of the past and it is time to forget, forgive and move on. Janakpur’s mayor Lal Kishore Sah says: “If you keep raking up the past, you can never prepare for the future.”
But many say Modi is not the kind who forgets and forgives. The importance that he has attached to Janakpur during his two-day visit shows that he wants to show Nepal’s Madhesi people he has not abandoned them. He may announce aid for a ‘Ramayana Circuit’ that will also help him with Hindu voters in Indian elections next year.
NC leader Abhishek Pratap Shah says: “From Janakpur Modi wants to give a message to the Madhesi people that he could not fully champion their cause in the past but will do so in the future.”
Modi is also trying to use his Nepal visit as an opportunity to send a strong message to Beijing by flying to worship at Muktinath close to the Chinese border.
The Oli government is still pro-Chinese and believes Beijing has increased its influence in Nepal,” Shah adds. “From Muktinath, Modi will be signalling China that India is still a dominant player in Nepal.”