Indian Army chief meets his Nepal counterpart amid strain in diplomatic ties

Gen Naravane is currently in Kathmandu on a three-day visit on the invitation of Thapa.

Indian Army Chief Gen MM Naravane met his Nepalese counterpart Gen Purna Chandra Thapa on Thursday and discussed measures to further bolster the existing bond of friendship and cooperation between the two armies.

Gen Naravane is currently in Kathmandu on a three-day visit on the invitation of Thapa.

His visit is largely aimed at resetting the bilateral ties that came under severe strain following a bitter border row. He met Thapa at the Chief of Army Staff's office here.

They exchanged views on issues of bilateral interests and discussed measures to further strengthen the existing bond of friendship and cooperation between the two armies, according to the Nepal Army headquarters' press statement.

He was also briefed about the history and current roles of the Nepali Army, according to the statement.

Naravane, who arrived in Kathmandu on Wednesday, took part in various events organised in the Army Headquarters on Thursday.

After paying his tribute to the martyrs in the Army Pavilion early Thursday morning, he received a Guard of Honour in the Army Headquarters.

He also planted a Pecan tree sapling in the Army Headquarter premise, keeping the tradition of earlier senior-level military visitors.

He also handed over ambulances and medical equipment, including ventilators, for two field hospitals to the Nepal Army.

Thapa also reciprocated by handing over 100,000 medical masks made in Nepal and an idol of Lord Buddha, a symbol of peace to Naravane.

Meanwhile, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari conferred the honorary rank of General of Nepali Army on General Naravane in the evening.

He was honoured at a special ceremony at the President's official residence 'ShitalNiwas' in Kathmandu. He was also presented a sword and scroll during the function.

The ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli, Indian Ambassador Vinay M Kwatra and other senior officials of both the countries.

The practice follows a seven decade old tradition of conferring Army Chiefs of each other's country with the honorary title. Commander-in-Chief General KM Cariappa was the first Indian Army Chief to be decorated with the title in 1950. In January last year, Chief of Nepali Army, General Purna Chandra Thapa, was also made the honorary General of the Indian Army by President Ram Nath Kovind at a ceremony in New Delhi.

He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Friday.

India's decision to send the Army chief to Nepal to reset the ties is seen as part of a larger exercise by New Delhi to rejuvenate relations with Myanmar, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan in the wake of greater efforts by China to expand its influence in the region.

The ties between the two countries came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.

Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory.

Days later, Nepal came out with the new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories.

After Nepal released the map, India reacted sharply, calling it a "unilateral act" and cautioning Kathmandu that such "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it.

In June, Nepal's Parliament approved the new political map of the country featuring areas which India maintains belong to it. India termed as untenable the "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims by Nepal.

India said Nepal's action violates an understanding reached between the two countries to resolve the boundary issues through talks. Nepal Prime Minister Oli has been asserting that Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura belong to Nepal and vowed to "reclaim" them from India. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India.

Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory - India as part of Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.

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