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Tag Archives | Nepal

India’s Nepal policy after Prachanda’s elevation to Prime Minister

India’s policy towards Nepal should be viewed as a friend and trusting neighbour rather than a bully

By Guru Aiyar (@guruaiyar)

Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda’s ascent to being the Prime Minister of Nepal on August 3 has come at an opportune time for India. Unveiling ‘Neighbourhood first’ policy in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke through the tradition when he invited the heads of state of all bordering countries for his swearing in ceremony. The case of Prachanda is unique in the sense that he has had a blow hot-blow cold relationship with India in the past. In that sinusoidal curve of blow cold in the latest phase, it was in all probability that India catalysed his ascendancy, miffed as it was with his predecessor K.P. Sharma Oli.

If Monroe doctrine is the bible to international relations, then India’s moves with Nepal do not fit into this framework at all. Put simply, Monroe doctrine dictated to the European powers in the early part of 19th century that the USA would brook no interference in its politics and no further colonisation could take place. This was one of the factors that helped the US emerge as a hegemon in the 20th century. A landlocked country like Nepal situated in the northeastern part of India and sharing a long 1850 Km border with India should in all probability be a client or a satellite state of India.

India for its part has been blamed by Nepal for being too overbearing. Consider this—during the devastating Nepal earthquake in May 2015, in spite of $1 billion help and the speed with which it was rendered, India was left red faced when it reminded Nepal about this during Nepal’s new constitution. India’s response of advising Nepal to address the concerns of all by which it meant Madhesis (people in the southern plains of Nepal) irked Nepal to no end. Nepal accused India of interfering in its affairs and nonchalantly went ahead and enforced the constitution. India retaliated by blockading Nepal that resulted in critical supplies being denied, chief among them being diesel.

Meanwhile, the then PM of Nepal, K.P.Sharma Oli was consistently battling his opponents as his own position was getting weakened. The main charge against him by Prachanda was his inability to give political stability.  Prachanda, who was the PM from 2006, had to step down in 2008 due to his differences with his army chief. He blamed India for this. The wheel has now come full circle. Prachanda has become the PM courting India’s help. The charge that India has acted like a big brother trying to meddle in Nepal’s domestic politics is not without substance. In 1989, India imposed economic sanctions on Nepal for importing military equipment from China. Nepal has not forgotten this.

As a result of feeling dominated, Nepal does what a weak power normally will do—seek a stronger power’s help, which in this case is China. Nepal feels that by doing this, it can keep India in check. Now, it is for India to get its Nepal policy back on track after some misses in the recent past. Assistance in the form of infrastructure building will go a long way in assuaging Nepalese. The actions must be seen in the form of friendly help rather than a big bully. Only this would help cement India’s Monroe doctrine.

Guru Aiyar is Research Fellow with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image – Stars over Everest 2 by Sam Hawley licensed from Creativecommons 

 

 

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Reflections on India’s Nepal policy

What should India do in response to the protests on the Indo—Nepal border?

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

Creating a new Republic is, at any rate, a gargantuan task. Seldom do states come out unscathed from the process. The task is compounded further in a networked society where failure to reconcile conflicting political demands can quickly escalate into a political crisis.

This is exactly the situation that Nepal’s seventh constitution has led the state to. Failure to accommodate the interests of the people from southern Nepal has led to widespread protests in the Terai region. Because of these protests, the flow of essential supplies into the landlocked country from India has ebbed, leading the pahadis of Kathmandu to label these protests as India sponsored interference. The Indian government has denied any blockade of trade, but has publicly expressed that some sections of the new constitution do not have broad-based ownership and acceptance.

The political protests have shifted the focus back to India—Nepal relations. While many commentators have opined on the hits and misses of the new constitution itself, there’s no assessment of how the latest political upheaval in Kathmandu is going to impact India’s national interests.

Before addressing India’s concerns, a brief review of the geopolitical realities of India—Nepal relations will help understand the situation better. First, Nepal being a landlocked country is heavily dependent on India. Dependence on another nation-state for its own survival is suicidal in international relations. So, it is perfectly understandable that any dispensation in Nepal will seek to reduce this dependence on India by breaking the Himalayan barrier and securing alternate trade and travel routes through Tibet.

Second, some anti-India sentiments in the hill regions are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. This is because any move by India on behalf of the ethnically similar Madhesis is likely to be seen in Kathmandu as a proof of India’s hegemonic stance. Issues of identity are sensitive and can quickly cloud even good karma from the past such as India’s effort in Nepal’s reconstruction following the disastrous earthquake or the fact that as much as 6 million Nepalese prefer to stay and work in India.

With these two conditions as the starting point, what does India seek from Nepal going ahead? One, Nepal has long been used as a conduit by terrorists from Pakistan. Thus, India wants sufficient leverage in Kathmandu such that terrorists attempting to use Nepal can be eliminated.

Second, Nepal is also the route for many organised rackets including human trafficking, circulation of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) and drug peddling. Again, India would want cooperation from Nepal to address these mutual concerns.

Third, India fears that China sponsored Maoists can cause disturbances in the eastern part of India, though this fear has subsided following the waning of the Maoist movements in both India and Nepal. And fourth, India wants to limit the impact of the unrest in Nepal on its own people in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Given these policy objectives and the geopolitical backdrop, India should not be eager to throw its weight behind any side in the ongoing confrontation in Nepal. India’s call of advocating for a representative constitution, without any attempt to project its power in Nepal is a reasonable policy option. Such an approach will calm the Indian borders while also ensuring that India retains enough power in Nepal to prevent it from becoming an anti-India laboratory.

The key for India is to have friends from across party lines in Nepal so that when the dust from the protest settles, India would be in a position to resume its collaboration with the new Republic seamlessly.

Pranay Kotasthane is a Research Fellow at The Takshashila Institution. He is on twitter @pranaykotas

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