India is making hard attempts to mark its arrival to the apogee of global power. It has earned worldwide admiration for its identity as the world’s largest democracy, vibrant economy and also as a country with world’s largest stock of most competent youth power. However its closest neighbor in the North – Nepal has surprisingly become an avid anti- Indian. With growing prominence of India on global affairs, majority of Nepali people have startlingly begun to side with China- a preeminent global power after America. But it is equally true that China can never become strategic partner of Nepal vis-à-vis to India.
However, never in history has China been so popular and India so unpopular in Nepal. All sections of Nepali people have a shared feeling that behind all the mess that is prevailing in Nepal, some kind of Indian design is working. Next to India it is widely believed that some European countries via various NGOs and INGOs are investing against the unity and integrity of Nepal.
A Memorandum of Understanding between Nepal and China on the 750 – MW project West Seti Hydro Project, signed between Nepal and China was a fine example of how Nepal perceives China. No voice was raised even though the government had put aside all the basic legal procedures in award of $ 2 billion project. Had the government allotted even a minor project to any Indian company this way, it would have invited untoward problems for the government. But with this, (agreement with China) the government has strengthened its support base and even the strongest pro –Indian lobby have acquiesced it without making any fuss.
Depending on their interest in power game, politicians might have different orientations in defining Nepal’s relations with India, but Nepalese people had always developed a deep sense of regards for India. In truer sense Nepalese were born pro- Indian. India was their next home, abode of learning, enlightenment, faith and the sacred land for their ultimate MOKSHA. It was a place where Nepali could take refugee at their hardest time. Even today thousands of people without any means for their livelihood, find their way to India.
The political division between two countries mattered less for people. Whenever governments of both countries differed and brought problems to their lives, their cultural roots, traditional values, religion and common socio-economic bonds could easily imbibe the friction soon and restore the normal situation. But time has changed. People with indivisible geo-cultural and economic linkages living from high mountains to Terai are making massive efforts to prove that they are different than Indians and are trying to distance with them.
There may be many reasons but let’s note few: first Indians are infamous for delaying the projects they undertake. For example the Pancheshwar Multipurpose project also known as Mahakali Treaty signed in 1996, that many in Nepal hoped would end their poverty and un-development has not moved a bit. People continue to live in dire poverty and even in rainy seasons they are living with long hour power cuts. The MOU on Upper Karnali and Arun III that was signed with a reputed Indian Multinational company GMR Energy and the other a government undertaking have been stalled for more than four years.
The second general perceptions here is : in all water resources agreement with India, Nepal is less benefitted. Therefore, any deal with the Chinese has the marked edge over the Indians and more preferable, considered as a courageous act and assertion of national independence and sovereignty.
The third is the colonial mindset of Indian politicians, bureaucrats, diplomats and even Indian public and professionals. Evidentially some political foul players and intelligentsia engaged in anti- Indian designs in both India and Nepal have worked hard in fanning common Nepali psyche go feverishly anti- Indian.
Of late the revelation made by people like S.D. Muni and former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran – who publicly gloat that when Maoist were killing innocent people and were engaged in mass torture in Nepal, the office of the Indian Prime Minister (PMO) and Indian intelligence agencies were making a secret deal with the Nepalese Maoist and were facilitating them to capture state power and abolish the monarchy – much earlier than King Gyanendra took the rein of state power in his hand directly.
Surprisingly it was the office of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee widely perceived here as having his unflinching support for Nepal’s distinct identity and its democracy presided over decisions which caused never ending political instability in Nepal. Mr. Vajpayee’s most trusted lieutenant, National Security Advisor – Brajesh Mishra – securing the permission from Vajpayee made a deal with Nepali Maoist and a part of the deal was to abolish monarchy in Nepal. More shocking was that the world’s largest democracy reached a deal with an organization that was officially declared terrorists by its own country and had connived at abolishing the age old constitutional institution from Nepal.
Another startling state of affairs was described by Vajpayee’s long time associate and his the deputy prime minister in charge of home affairs: L.K. Advani a three time president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Advani in his book – My Country My Life, has accused the government of Dr. Manmohan Singh following double standards in dealing Indian Maoist. He states that Dr. Singh on the one hand rightly declared that naxalism was the biggest threat to India’s internal security on the other; his party has often taken the help from the Maoist groups in short term electoral gains.
Advani has expressed disappointments with the failures of Manmohan government “to explicitly mention the well-known link between the Maoist insurgents in Nepal and the naxal outfits in India. The two are twin brothers both being the offspring of the global monster of communist extremism. Soft corner for the Maoist in Nepal, whose insurgency has caused thousands of lives and greatly destabilised the Himalayan kingdom is a dangerous policy . . . . . It has been my party’s consistent stand that (a) Nepal should have a vibrant and effective multi-party democracy; (b) the framework of constitutional monarchy should be preserved, since it is a symbol of Nepal’s identity and sovereignty . . .”
Had Advani known about the secret deal between his PMO and Nepali Maoists, he might not have written what he mentioned in his book in 2008. Furthermore, according to a knowledgeable person who does not want his name to be quoted, when some royalist approached the Rajnath Singh Advani’s successor as BJP chief, seeking his intervention to oppose the anti- monarchy design hatched in India and being implemented in Nepal, Mr. Singh flatly turned it down citing King Gyanendra’s pro- China policy especially in SAARC and supported the Maoist stand against the monarchy instead.
India’s pro- Maoist stand had created some ripples in Indo- U.S. relations too. According to wikileaks U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Michael Malinowski hinting the secret deal between the Indian government and Maoist asked his Indian counterpart in Nepal Shyam Saran to explain Indian position after Maoist had killed two Nepali security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu in 2002. Saran after contacting Mishra in New Delhi tried hard to clarify that India was not operating on cross purposes in their policies toward Nepal and Nepali Maoists and it was not working with Maoist to attack or to threaten US interests in Nepal.
RSN Singh in a book – Threat from China edited by Bharat Verma, has quoted from the diary of H. Lal, Head of Indian Aid Mission to Nepal (1957-60). Hinting to King Mahendra, he advised that if the political stalemate continues in Nepal more and more people will be leaving Nepali Congress and join communists while as a gladiator the King “may cut off the heads of Nepali Congress leaders, you cannot cut the heads of communists. They do not expose their heads. That lies in some other country. There are only limbs here. They will grow more limbs . . . .” Which was the country Mr. Lal indicated that time, is not known, but he might never have imagined that the country he hinted could one day be his own country – India.
Advent of modern transport and communication facilities may open new opportunities for Nepal in its geo-economic relations with China, it may help Nepal in many ways mainly in managing its geographical deficit against India, but China in no way can compensate the geo-political and geo-cultural relation existing between Nepal and India for centuries. Therefore, Nepal has to accentuate and reinvent its relations with India without impairing its relations with China a bit.
But evidently if India continues to create vacuum to serve its shortsighted policy goals dogged by the prejudices of its masters rather than the long term interests of the nation, its nearest and long time strategic ally will continue to distance from it, that in long run may be detrimental to its larger security interests.
This article appeared in The Reporter Weekly and is reprinted with permission.