07:44 GMT18 February 2020
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    While Indian vehicles could freely enter Nepal, the same was not the case with Nepalese vehicles seeking entry into India. The new reciprocal arrangement is likely to increase people-to-people contact, a measure India sees as imperative to counter growing Chinese influence in the Himalayan nation.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Narendra Modi-led government has decided to allow private vehicles from Nepal enter India without a special permit.

    The crucial agreement was made during the third meeting of India-Nepal Cross-Border Transport Facilitation Joint Working Group under the Motor Vehicles Agreement in New Delhi.

    "India has close cultural ties with Nepal and, of late, India is giving more emphasis on strengthening cultural ties to woo Nepalese people surely to counter Chinese influence," Dr. Savita Pande, a scholar on South Asian affairs told Sputnik.

    READ MORE: Maoist Election Victory in Nepal Could Signal Pivot from India to China

    The procedural guidelines will soon be formulated for facilitating private Nepali vehicles to enter India without the special permit that is currently required. Nepal has demanded since long that Nepali private vehicles should receive similar facility that Indian vehicles enjoy while crossing into Nepal.

    "The decision will have faa r reaching impact on India-Nepal relations which is far from smooth. It will definitely soothe the anti-India sentiments in Nepal as most of the people of Nepal think that India does not treat them equally. Further, it will increase people to people contact between the two countries," Dr. Savita Pande added.

    Given the fact that the Himalayan nation is sandwiched between the two Asian giants, historically Nepal has always maintained equidistant outlook towards both. However, the relationship between Nepal and India has been rough since Nepal promulgated a new Constitution in 2015. India viewed the new Constitution as a blatant denial of equal rights to the Madhesi people (who have close ties to India's bordering states) and imposed an unofficial economic blockade. Meanwhile, China and Nepal and grew closer in recent times with the latter anticipating huge economic benefits from China's vision of Belt and Road Initiative.     

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    bilateral cooperation, people's diplomacy, cultural exchanges, regional cooperation, influence, India, China, Nepal
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