Must repair ties with Nepal

The rapid deterioration in India-Nepal relations over the past fortnight is worrying. While it was India’s unhappiness with Nepal’s new constitution that set the stage for the souring relations, it is Delhi’s gratuitous advice to Kathmandu on amending the constitution and its alleged ‘unofficial blockade’ of goods entering Nepal that prompted a tidal wave of anti-India sentiment in that country. In a rare show of unity, Nepal’s three main political parties have come together to oppose India’s ‘meddling’ in Nepal’s affairs. Massive protests calling on India to “back off” have erupted in Nepal. The goodwill India earned in providing support to Nepal during the earthquake has evaporated. This is reason for concern as a beleaguered Nepal is likely to turn to China to meet its requirement of essential commodities. If, in its hour of crisis Kathmandu turns to China, India has only itself to blame. Its shoddy diplomacy has hurt Nepali sensitivities and it will take many years for the damage to be repaired. While Delhi’s anxiety over Madeshi exclusion and unrest is understandable given its likely implications for India’s security, India overstepped boundaries by extending Nepal advice on the contents of the constitution.
This is so typical of Delhi’s ‘big brotherly’ behaviour towards Nepal. Even if India is not behind the blockade, its decision to halt trucks headed to Nepal was poorly timed. In effect, this decision is indirectly facilitating the blockade.

Indian diplomats say that Nepali groups opposed to India are behind the violent anti-India protests in Nepal. There may be some truth in this argument. However, India’s talking down to Nepali leaders is providing these anti-India groups with more than enough ammunition. That millions of others are willing to believe the worst of India is a damning indictment of how negative India’s image is in Nepal.

The Indian and Nepali governments must act swiftly to defuse the crisis. This is not the time for grandstanding or muscle flexing. India must ensure that the supply of commodities to landlocked Nepal is restored immediately and Nepal should provide security to Indian trucks travelling across the restive Terai on their way to Kathmandu Valley. Dashain festival is approaching and the Nepali people are dismayed that soaring prices of commodities will hamper their celebration. India should use this opportunity to build bridges with Nepal. Delhi’s diplomatic strategy towards Nepal needs a complete overhaul and the Narendra Modi government must give this the urgent attention it deserves. Fraying relations with a strategically significant neighbour is not in India’s interest.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry