Nepalese wary of Indian intervention
NEPAL’S adoption of a new federal, democratic and secular constitution had angered India, as if Nepal was not a sovereign country but India’s vassal state. Though India claims to be a secular state, but with Hindu revivalist Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders at the helm, it wants Hindutva ideology to prevail there. On September 23, 2015, India had started Nepal’s blockade, exactly three days after the Constituent Assembly of Nepal had passed the Constitution with 90% members voting in favour. Out of Nepal’s 598-strong Constituent Assembly only 66 members from Madeshi and Tharu minorities had abstained from voting in protest. Nepal’s ruling party and its allies had staged anti-India protests on completion of 100 Days of Indian blockade, which included ban on Indian news channels by Nepal’s cable operators.
On March 25, 2017, ABC News interviewed Phanidra Nepal Chairman Greater Nepal Nationalist Front, and Dr. Bishnu Dahal. They stressed the need to change Nepal’s foreign policy so that Kathmandu can maintain equal relations with both Beijing and New Delhi. They were of the view that border blockade, unrest in Madhesh, growing anti-India sentiments, excessive Indian interference in internal affairs of Nepal were largely the consequences of flawed foreign policy, as Nepalese leaders have a tendency to become ultra nationalist when out of power. However, as soon as they come into power their position changes and they become Indian surrogates. They believed that Nepal can overcome its difficulties and achieve a sustainable growth in the long run if it adopts Chinese-funded mega projects especially OBOR to reduce dependency on India. But Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dhal’s govt is procrastinating on the implementation of the MoUs signed between Nepal and China during KP Oli govt.
They also demanded that 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with India be abrogated without any delay, and MoUs signed between Nepal and China should be implemented. On 4th April 2017, a well known journalist of Nepal, Sita Ram Baral associated with Kantipur Media Group published an article titled “China (North) Green Signal to Greater Nepal.” Beijing had invited Phanindra Nepal four times to visit China during one year, whose Front vows to recover the Napelese territory that India is illegally occupying. It is in fact a tacit green signal by Beijing regarding Chinese support for demand of Greater Nepal. Phanindra Nepal during his visits to China met Chinese president’s close aide Mr. Li Xiqung twice and presented him the map of Greater Nepal.
Nepal is a country with enough natural resources, potential in tourism, hydropower potential, fertile land and over and above hard working people. Nepal is located between two big nations, and thus it has strategic geopolitical significance. Even though a tiny country, Nepal is an important venue for foreign powers. If Nepal becomes economically prosperous, it will become difficult for India and westerners in making this country their stronghold. Therefore, they are making efforts to destabilize this country. Furthermore, India believes that Nepal is its protected nation; therefore it has tried to destroy the strong organs of this country to weaken it. However, due to India’s interference in the internal affairs of Nepal the entire Nepali population is always suspicious of India.
Just a couple of days before Nepal formally adopted the new constitution, India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was sent to Kathmandu at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had held discussions with Nepal’s president and prime minister and leaders of all the major political parties. He had pressurized the Nepalese government to delay the adoption of the constitution and hold discussions with political groups opposed to it. A statement issued by Indian foreign ministry had said: “We are concerned that the situation in several parts of the country bordering India continues to be violent. We urge that issues on which there are differences should be resolved through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation, and institutionalised in a manner that would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance.”
India had taken the position that communities living in the Terai, especially the Madeshis (said to be of Indian origin) and the Tharu ethnic minorities, had expressed concern that the proposed boundaries of the new provinces could lead to their political marginalisation. But this is gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. India’s attitude and behaviour with its neighbouring countries has been contrary to the norms of peaceful co-existence. Instead of recognizing their sovereignty and equal status, India wishes a pliant behaviour on the part of its neighbours, and demands of them to act according to its dictates. India expects of its neighbours to formulate their external, internal and even defence policies according to its wishes.
Former prime minister KP Oli and Unified Communist Party of Nepal Maoists (UCPNM) Chairperson and now Prime Minister Pushpakamal Dahal appeared to have buckled under Indian pressure, and decided to address the Indian concerns. Oli-Dahal had sent a new message to New Delhi about moving the constitutional amendment bill in Parliament. India had welcomed the move, but was of the view that if KP Oli continued to be at the helm, he might create other problems for India. It is an open secret that the Madhesh unrest was planned and sponsored by India, and wished to advance its hegemonic agenda through Madheshis and other minorities. Majority of the people of Nepal are wary of India’s interference time and again, and it appears that they will resist India’s designs for hegemony.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.