BY HARI PRASAD SHRESTHA 14/4/2018
During the recent India visit of Nepal Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli, it has been observed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted, to some level that he was misguided by the so-called Nepal experts – during the promulgation of Constitution of Nepal in 2015 and Nepal India border blockade in 2016. Realizing this fact, Mr. Oli also did not mention past unpleasantness during his visit there.
After returning from India, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that his state visit to India was successful and serious dialogue with New Delhi had been helpful in resolving disagreements. Moreover, he focused on trust-building with the Indian political leadership, after the lows in relations by India’s border blockade following the promulgation of the constitution in 2015.
A 12-point joint statement issued on April 07, 2018, during the state visit of Prime Minister of Nepal to India. As per the joint statement, Prime Minister Modi stated that Government of India’s vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ is a guiding framework for India’s engagement with its neighbors for a shared vision of inclusive development and prosperity.
Prime Minister Oli stated that after the landmark political transformation, his Government had given priority to economic transformation with the motto ‘Samriddha Nepal Sukhi Nepali.’
Prime Minister Modi congratulated the people and the Government of Nepal for the successful conduct of local level, federal parliament and first-ever provincial elections in Nepal and appreciated their vision for stability and development.
First time in the history of Nepal India relationship, a new chapter of equal treatment has been observed. The political level in India seemed more cautious in dealing with Nepal including the bureaucracy.
However, the so-called diplomats and experts on Nepal in India were not very happy with the visit of Mr. Oli. They expressed their dissatisfaction through different media after the visit of Mr. Oli. Major points of their concern and displeasure in Indian media were:
An unhappy India can also be a source of trouble as the alliance with the Maoists, even after the unification of the two Communist parties, will remain inherently fragile and vulnerable.
About China, if Nepal ignores India’s concerns, there were options open to New Delhi, like not purchasing power from the Chinese-added hydro-projects. The Madhes issue, though put on the back-burner, has not been abandoned.
India preferred the strengthening of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) as against SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and suggested that Oli give up Pakistan’s advocacy for activating SAARC.
Mr. Oli’s interview to a Hong Kong-based newspaper regarding revival the $2.5 billion (Rs 16,200 crore) Budhi Gandaki project (allotted to China) that the former Nepali Congress government had canceled and a possible “correction” of the longstanding practice of Gurkha recruitment to serve in the Indian army.
By undertaking projects like the rail link to Kathmandu, India has also consciously stepped into an unwinnable competition with China.
While China promises to bring the rail link from Tibet to Kathmandu by 2022, India would be able to only complete the survey of the project by 2019. Oli wanted India to put in writing a five-year deadline for the rail project, which India obviously could not do.
Four types of Indian entities are dealing with Nepal; they are – bureaucrats, former diplomats and experts, intelligent and security agency, and political leaders. In Nepal’s context, the bureaucracy and the intelligence are sturdier compared to other entities.
The above points indicate that former diplomats and Nepal experts, who are making propaganda, always wanted to bring Nepal under its security umbrella under the pretext of a security threat from China and they had been major player interfering Nepal’s internal affairs.
They had massively publicized the Himalayas as security barriers of the northern border as set by late Pandit Nehru. However, once China also used to consider its Great Wall as great barriers against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. The Himalayas are natural mountains while Great Wall is manmade structures.
At present, both structures are obsolete and have little meaning from a security point of view. The modern technological development in space and aerial warfare have made every success to penetrate from one country to any other countries of the world. Moreover, the Himalayan barriers could not stop the 1962 war between India and China.
After this war, the Indian authorities massively used the word “Security concern’ with its neighbors. Almost all neighbors, directly or indirectly should be under the sphere of India influence and growing friendship and connectivity with China considered great security concern for India. In other words, if any neighbor goes out of its security umbrella, it is considered a violation of Indian security concern.
The agreement between Nepal and China for the expansion of Chinese trade in South Asia through railway connectivity via Nepal also became big issues for them, especially the use of Chinese seaports by Nepal seems to be a big concern. As road and railway connectivity between Nepal and China increases, Nepal will come out of India’s security umbrella, and Indian political and economic monopoly over Nepal will decline. They have high fear in their mind compared to the political level in India that Nepal has gone out of Indian grip.
In today’s time, no country can stop the march of globalization and liberalization by restricting other countries. They should recognize this reality. It would also be better for even India to prepare to enter the Chinese market. Trying to block China in the name of security might prevent it from taking advantage of the promises of globalization and liberalization. Moreover, India should try to improve relations with its neighbors if it wishes to be a future regional and world power. It should respect the sovereignty of all its smaller neighbors. Otherwise, there is no alternative to lose the neighbor friends. Indian leadership should not be confused under the ill-advised of so-called experts.
Nepalese Gorkhas in India army are protecting Indian borders with China and Pakistan in the front line, and they are accusing Nepal that it is not supporting its security concerns and saying its only employment to the Nepalese. If Nepal terminates Gurkha recruitment what would happen to India, they know very well.
It is true that Nepalese are against some provisions of the 1950 Treaty of friendship with India. Especially Nepal opposes the open border between two countries, equal treatment to both nationals and defense-related matters. The so-called Indian experts are of the opinions that thousands of Nepalese are getting employment in India due to the open border, which is not true. There are far better other countries than India for employment to the Nepalese people abroad. On the contrary, they never speak large remittance send by Indian laborer from Nepal, and hundreds of thousand Indians have been employed in Nepal.
Due to this treaty, there is fear in the minds of Nepalese people that if any Nepalese prime minister visits India, they could be in the trap to sign treaty against Nepal. Nepal is not playing any China card with India. It’s Indian security card frightening Nepal to keep it under India’s security umbrella and try to block Nepal’s relations with other neighbors.
Moreover, India, however, does have an agreement with China to expand border trade through the Lipulekh Pass (Nepali territory), while the Indian state of Sikkim is adjoining eastern Nepal already connects to Tibet through the Nathula-Sikkim highway. Thus, India does not mind connecting with China, but Nepal’s linkages with its northern neighbor have always been a matter of concern for the Indian government. Moreover, there are more than hundred times huge trade between India and China compared to Nepal and China.
It is open that the Indian development projects in Nepal are small cosmetic nature, mostly implemented by its embassy, the mega projects are the only showpiece to give an impression of the counter to Chinese projects in Nepal. This has given an impression in Nepal that India is no more supportive of Nepal’s mega projects and development. Now, Nepal wants from India not to be disturbed in its development endeavors. If India does not want to implement mega projects, Nepal itself is capable and confident to implement such projects; other international partners are also assisting in Nepal’s development.
Its high time for Indian political leaders to draw a clear policy direction towards Nepal and other neighbors. Using retired diplomats and experts, who disseminate poisonous feelings through media against Nepal could be counterproductive for India in the long run, proper government reaction to such behavior is expected.