When I was a primary level school student, we were taught that Nepal is a land-locked country. When I became a high school student, it did not take me long to understand Nepal is the India-locked country. When I became a University student, I was more exposed to geo-politics and India's intention towards Nepal, particularly when India did not recognize Nepal as Zone of Peace.
India's unofficial blockade of Nepal - now in its third week - has continued. The blockade has put Nepal under great hardship at a time when Nepal is dealing with the post-earthquake recovery. Once again India’s ill intention towards Nepal has been exposed more clearly, the third blockade since India's independence from British Raj, 1969, 1989 and 2015. India, the largest democracy, has time and again used the open border issue to threaten it's close neighbor Nepal whenever it feels that Nepal is not responding to its interest.
Expressing its discontent with Nepal’s newly promulgated constitution, the message from New Delhi seems to be that the economic blockade on Nepal will be completely lifted only when the demands of the protesting Madheshis, especially on province demarcations, electoral constituencies and national assembly representation, are met. It appears on the surface that India is helping genuine demands of the Madheshi community, but the people wonder what's inside. India has security and water resources interests in Nepal. After annexation of Sikkim into India, Nepal has every reason to be careful and sensitive that Nepal’s Tarai area is not annexed into India. Nepal should also learn from Fiji and Bhutan to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The blockade imposed by India is against the international law. Nepal has verbally appealed the world community to ensure effective and unhindered access to the sea for landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) like Nepal through effective implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for 2014-2024. Nepali leaders are however afraid to internalize the issue. Thanks to the European Union delegation to Nepal who have expressed concern over the obstruction in the border point and expressed its readiness to support in the supply and distribution of humanitarian goods. But the international community including SAARC nations have not done enough to raise this issue as a serious concern.
Surrounded on three sides by India, with the high mountains to the north, Nepal is economically dependent on India. Over the time, Nepal became more and more dependent economically and politically dependent. Political leaders were only in the authority while the power was in India after 1990s political changes. Politically, power and authority are different. Now, we need to see beyond the land-locked and India-locked mentality. There is an opportunity to get more united against India's undue interference on our internal matters. We should expand to diversify international trade both in terms of products and market destinations while working closely with India and China. The two key trading points with China, Rasuwagadhi Trading Point in Rasuwa and Tatopani Trading Point in Sindhupalchok district, have been closed following the April 25 earthquake and its aftershocks. The government should make extra effort to seek cooperation of the Chinese government in reopening its trading points at the Nepal-China border at the earliest. We should also engage proactively with China's Silk Road Economic Belt and other connectively for trade and tourism.
I would like to see the school text-books written with new prospects and the students analyzed the future with more opportunities in the globalized world while taking economic benefits from its neighbor as trade-corridor. Nepal could well be land-lined, no more land-locked or India-locked. Nepal's geo-strategic position is not our weakness, it's our geo-strategic strength that we must project at the regional and global levels.
Dr. Prabin Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is also a visiting faculty at the Kathmandu University. email@example.com