Enigmatic Nepal-India Relations

<br><P>Lok Raj Baral</P>

May 1, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 04 No.-21 April 29-2011 (Baisakh 16,2068)

The Nepal-India relations are perennially a dominating feature in Nepali politics and media circles. Other professional groups and individuals are no less vocal about the subject. But the more we read and hear about India or even China, the more ignorant we become. Even normal visits by some Indian bureaucrats or academics , let alone the members of policy making staff , trigger debates and hypothetical discussions about the motives of India.  Nepali media in particular is replete with possible Indian moves against individuals or parties , considered to be bête noire for Indian interests. And all such stories are not always baseless since India has also shown individual and political preference while making and breaking the governments. Nehru threw his weight against B.P. Koirala in 1951-52 preferring M.P. Koirala. His perception that B.P. was too radical to take together both the Ranas and the King could have been well intentioned but how his comprehension of the unfolding political scenarios   proved wrong even after making MP as Prime Minister also needs to be revisited by today's Indian policy makers. 

India's permanent and unchanging interests might have  prompted  the bureaucratic and security establishment in India  that any government in Nepal should  not try  to cross the limits  set by geo-political and strategic realities.  Some core components of India-Nepal relations ----Indian security interest that  all it implies should not be undermined by Nepal. Indians want  a guarantee that Nepal's  location , all forms of interconnectedness between the two peoples and countries , cannot be compromised in the name of  independent foreign policy or the so-called doctrine of non-interference.

It must  be admitted with sincerity that India is not an expansionist power as some politicians tend to malign when they fall out of  its favour or lack an objective assessment  of this regional power. Sikkim cannot be compared with Nepal because of Nepal's own  history of an independent nation.  Nevertheless, even sovereign independent nation states, big and small, have limitations  and are constrained to abide by such  compulsions.  It is not only concerned with India-Nepal but it is a common phenomenon in today's international politics.

Coming in the wake of Nepal's unsettled political developments  and parties'  failure to reach a consensus on both domestic and foreign policies , India ,being a close neighbor, wants, if possible, to influence these developments and if not, take measures  to neutralizing them.  We should also acknowledge the rising aspirations of both India and China ,  the two  Asian powers with eyes on becoming world powers. The overall developmental scenarios in both the countries  prompt us to be cognizant of this fact in order to be more smart in adjusting to the changing  realities.  It can be done by reaching a  consensus on certain core areas of  national development relating it to the advantages to be accrued to Nepal from China and India. For it, Nepali politicians  need to  develop their own competence and knowledge about the new regional and global realities.  First, they should immediately settle the issues of constitution making, and then  start developing cordial and cooperative relations with neighbours thus abdicating past practices of trying to use one neighbor against the other.

The Indian minister of external affairs, SM Krishna, has aptly raised this point while responding to the Nepali side over a luncheon hosted in his honour on April 20th, 2011. Relating to India's pace of development,  he said that India wanted a developed and stable Nepal.  Projects  should be completed without any obstacle. And the Maoist activists are reported to have obstructed the construction of projects undertaken by India. In other meetings too, the minister  raised the issue of growing anti-Indian feelings whipped by the Maoists in Nepal.  It has been learned that Krishnan was blunt enough to tell the Nepali authorities that either Nepal should assure India of the safety of its embassy and diplomatic staff or should allow it to keep its own security guards.  He also complained that a  party in government[Maoist]  mounts anti-Indian campaign, while the other [CPN(UML)]becomes a silent spectator. 

Notwithstanding such recent developments, the Indian attitude towards Nepal is  often guided by perception than by reality which in turn  has also given rise to anti-Indianism, though it is not a new phenomenon in Nepal.  Politicians  irrespective of their ideological and political biases, join this bogey when they  realize that India government leaders show their preference to individuals and parties rather than to developing institutions. In the past, the Nepali Congress, dubbed as pro-Indian by the " Left" as well as by the so-called "Rashtrabadi",  has also  become critical of India .  The Kings used anti-Indian cards by taking advantage of straining Sino-Indian relations in the 1960s.  The situation has now changed with both the neighbours---China and India--- developing their respective capacities to maintain geo-political  equilibrium.  China has its own soft bellies in Asia , due to which it cannot take risks by taking a plunge against India. So is India under pressure due to a number of spots where China and Pakistan can create troubles.

Nepal's security threat is purely internal rather than extra-territorial.  No country is secured unless it develops politically, economically and psychologically .  Internal development and self-confidence  are the preconditions for insuring national security. If Nepal's internal situation worsens every passing day, its neighbours have  legitimate concerns about  it. India more than China seems to show such concerns, though it alone cannot  provide solutions to the multifaceted problems of Nepal. Nepal's own leadership should find solution with the support and sympathy of  its  neighbours. And  India has played the role of a facilitator in the past and is likely to do it again  if Nepali side starts developing cordial and cooperative relations with it ( India).  Indian policy makers should also understand the changed political context of Nepal by encouraging major political forces to move towards peace, democratic stability and   development.  
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