On Indo-Nepal Relations from an Unknown Nepali’s Perspective
The world’s fastest growing economy India has put a high barrier on Nepali garments import as a souvenir to the world’s newest republic neighbor. It was, however, not unanticipated. Indian Embassy in Nepal had already expressed its annoyance at Prachanda’s first official visit to China. India had insisted to adhere to the “convention” of making Delhi as the first official visit, but Maoist Party Chairman Prachanda, citing to invitation for the historic Beijing Olympics, made his pilgrimage to Prophet Mao’s land. Immediately after landing on Kathmandu Airport back from Beijing, Prachanda declared that the New Nepal would stick to its conventional “Panchashil” (Five Principles of the defunct Non-aligned Movement) policy of the Cold War era and his another pilgrimage would be to New Delhi.
New Delhi bosses were further inflamed by the responsibility of the massive human catastrophe incurred by Bihar people due to Kosi floods that was supposed to drown only the Nepalis. What seemed to be around 50,000 Nepali victims of the flood turned out to be “a cumin seed in an elephant’s mouth” compared with the millions of sufferers in Bihar. The Kosi, infamous as it is, breached not only the embankment in Nepal, but did not respect the Indian border either. The result: a man made tragedy of global proportion in Bihar.
Interestingly, the Koshi Project controversy has brought the contradicting “anti-Indian” Pahadi and “Pro-Indian” Madhesi public opinion in Nepal at their unanimous conclusion: the Koshi Project has been what both Pahadi PM Prachanda and Madhesi FM Upendra Yadav commented, a “historic blunder” for Nepal. The technical and bureaucratic aspects of the Koshi Project can be fairly assessed from Nepali hydro-expert Dipak Gyawali and Indian journalist R Krishnakumar’s views. One just needs to peek into any of thousands of magazines from India to realize how the Indian intelligentsia has tolerated political and bureaucratic corruption as just another unavoidable game of the scoundrels.
There are some very descent politicians in India from I. P. Gujral to Sitaram Yechuri who believe in making good neighbors through good conduct. Indo-Nepal relationship has always been cordial at the business and public level. However, the sorts of those who shut down Hajmola factory in Nepal or those who slap a ridiculous levy on Nepali goods in India and impose an embargo on Nepal prevail time and again. The Indian regime has undoubtedly inherited colonial mindset from the British Raj. But, do the foreign policy strategists in Delhi believe that Nepalis would surrender to Indian political hegemony? Culturally, Nepalis are very much influenced by India, but at the same time, Nepali nationalism has also grown stronger than ever before. Even the Madhesi community that India had been banking upon owing to their similarity with Northern Bihar people is increasingly getting suspicious of Delhi’s intentions.
Hence, no one in Nepal is shocked by Delhi’s indirect ban on Nepali products. The only thing Nepalis find it strange that it’s happening under the leadership of a highly respected academic premier of India Dr. Manmohan Singh. Everyone knows that once Prachanda compromises some of his “revolutionary” and “nationalist” fervor seen as “anti-Indian” by New Delhi, there would certainly be some relaxes as a token of supremacy. The same policy always works for New Delhi babus – monarchies have been toppled and regimes have been changed through the economic asphyxiation policy. However, such forced compromises would only fan India resentment in Nepal that Delhi so much abhors, helping the proponents of “Tunnel War” with India. How long would the politicians play their petty squabbles at the cost of common people?
Perhaps, better if Nepal reviews its foreign policy of “equidistance” to both its neighbors. Nepal has to choose one between its neighbors. Choose any one – but equidistance doesn’t work. The New Nepal optimism of double digit growth by making Nepal a corridor between Sino-Indian trade would soon prove a farce. Just imagine, how could Delhi allow Nepalis to have a double digit growth when its own “boom” costs millions of people starving to death in Bihar, Bengal, and UP? Therefore, Mr. Prachanda, either you openly side with Beijing people if they really allow you, or accept Delhi’s blackmail of “Security Umbrella”.
Did anyone hear how elated Nepal’s Supply Minister sounded when he was reporting that Indian ambassador had given assurances of smooth fuel supply to Nepal?