the midget, mammoth and the missing link in the Himalayas – Telegraph Nepal

From the archive

Prof. Gopal Pokharel, Maitidevi, Kathmandu

The background:

Historically, culturally and strategically Nepal-India relation is traced back to antiquity that dates back at least to the time of ‘Ramayana’ in the ‘TretaYug’.

The relations between the two needs no further explanation and is characterized as having its origin to people to people level covering multi-dimensions of interests of both of people and therefore, is not confined to government level only.

Those who watch closely the entire gamut and characteristics of Nepal-India relations would also prefer to call it a relation of ‘beti and roti’.

Baring aside some ephemeral hiccups at certain points of history, Nepal- India relationship has been unmatched since ancient time.

As stated above, Nepal-India relation is multi-faceted which is not limited merely to official contact and interaction at political and economic levels.

It inherently, incorporates a wide range of dimensions like art, literature, culture, religion and popular level, among others.

These factors have proved pivotal in consolidating the people to people connection between the two countries for the last several centuries.

By and large, till today the relation between the two peoples has been friendly, cooperative and comprehensive and could rightly be construed as unique, extensive and exemplary.

Against this backdrop, the bilateral relationship should have been further refined and consolidated as per the needs and aspirations of the two peoples to a meaningful height.

Paradoxically, over the last few decades specially after the independence of India from the British Raj the understanding, warmth and cordiality in the bilateral relation has considerably been diluted and has become lop-sided despite the fact that many Nepali youths have had their contributions to anti colonial movements in India.

Some of the Nepali leaders like late B.P. Koirala, M.M. Adhikari, D.R Regmi etc faced imprisonment for their support to the independent national movement of India.

The Nepali people in general do not shy away in displaying magnanimity and respect in their dealings with their Indian friends and vice versa, but a small section of top brass bureaucrats placed at the South block responsible to manage bilateral affairs, have gradually shown arrogance by following a stubborn posture with parochial mind set in their dealing with Nepal, particularly in the recent past.

The behavior followed by the Indian establishment and the subsequent development surfaced in the form of latest crisis in the border points amply suggest its well thought out design and true color in the pretext of helping a section of Nepali population against the other causing the bilateral relation to a point of rigmarole reflecting India’s role and behavior in the form of continuous interference in the internal affairs of Nepal.

Weakening of links in the neighborhood policy of India:

After the early 70s, the regional balance of power in the sub-continent has recorded a drastic shift, and as such, the attitude and behavior of the ruling Indian elites has come to occupy the role of regional bully vis-a-vis its neighbors.

Recent blockade (third one in 2015 September) at India-Nepal border is a burning illustration of this fact.

The Indian leadership appears reluctant to give up the colonial mind set rather wants to boost it further following the footprint of their colonial masters showing unwillingness to adjust with the ground realities and by ignoring the norms and ideas and the essence of globalization.

By making a halt in the supply of essential commodities from across the border has (had) resulted in severe panic and caused humanitarian crisis in the small Himalayan country Nepal.

The policy and measures adopted by top Indian bureaucrats in particular is a clear manifestation of hegemonic tendencies by completely ignoring the principles of ‘Pancha-Sheela’, the policy of non-alignment and the provision enshrined in the United Nation’s Charter.

For the incumbent Indian leadership these ideals and values of international relations had very little meaning or virtually no meaning as far sovereign equality between and among nations is concerned.

In the region whether Sikkim, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or Nepal, they all have bitter experience of arm twisting by India in the conduct of bilateral relation in the recent past.

The present scenario:

After a prolonged conflict and transition Nepal has entered the phase of Federal Democratic Republican state by fulfilling a long cherished goal of framing a constitution by a constituent assembly.

This historical episode has received wide acclamation from the international community except India.

Nepal, being a very close neighbor of India always wished it well and harbors no ill will to Indian friends, have always respected the genuine national interest of India including security concerns and expects India to understand our vulnerability arising out of our geo-strategic locations.

Nepali people also feel very happy to note the commitment made by our two immediate neighbors India and China that they would reconcile their differences peacefully and work jointly to make the 21 century, a century of the Asians.

The progress recorded by India over the years has placed India at preponderant status in the subcontinent.

The Indian political leadership should have grabbed such historical opportunities bestowed on it taking a lead to take all the countries in the subcontinent into confidence by creating congenial atmosphere for constructive engagements towards a collective self-reliance through different instruments and agencies like SAARC and BIMSTEC.

Concomitantly, the incumbent Indian leadership should have assured the smaller countries of the region that it’s all around progress and prosperity would have salutary effect upon the member states in the neighborhood which in turn projects India’s role and image as a guarantor of regional peace and security by fully respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each member state in the subcontinent.

The unique geo-strategic location of Nepal has shaped and guided the country’s foreign policy formulation and implementation ever since the “Yam Between the two boulders” strategy was adopted more than two centuries ago.

Situated as Nepal is between two Asian giants, India and China as her immediate neighbors, the need for the country to maintain balanced, cordial, friendly and cooperative relations with these two most populous neighbors cannot be over emphasized.

The Paradoxes:

After the promulgation of a new Federal Democratic and Republican constitution by the Nepali people, Nepal-India relations has entered an ugly scene and measures adopted by ‘Modi’ government has caused severe panic pushing Nepal towards humanitarian crisis.

Do the steps taken by a sovereign country Nepal aim at jeopardizing vital national interests of India?

Has Nepal committed serious crime by promulgating a new constitution for herself? is a moot question at this hour.

If not, why should there be hue and cry pertaining to the historical episode?

These questions have only one answer-that the India (mammoth) does want to put Nepal(midget) under a subservient role.

In other words, Nepal should be deprived from taking independent decision for her own betterment. Based on factual information, agitations, conflicts are occurring on a number of pockets within the Indian Republic also.

‘Kashmir’ has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan ever since India achieved independence from the British colony.

Likewise, in the northeast parts of India and within west Bengal province, disturbances are noticed on a number of occasions.

Majority of Indian citizens of the Nepali origin are frantically struggling hard seeking autonomy from West Bengal province.

Till date, Nepali government has not had even moral support or sympathy to these ongoing movements in different intervals of time.

Nepal perceives those uprisings and agitations as internal affairs of India and has totally refrained from meddling in any of these incidences.

On the contrary, India is bent upon to dismember Nepal by involving itself in micro management of Nepali affairs.

Under such a situation, the bilateral relationship between the midget (Nepal) and the mammoth (India) had touched its lowest ebb causing a deep crisis by clearly indicating a missing link in the Himalayas.

Although, Nepal in principle has always advocated the policy of equidistance or equi proximity with our immediate neighbors (India and China) but in actual practice Nepal has maintained clear proclivity and favored treatment to our southern neighbor- India.

The peace and friendship treaty of July 31st 1950 between Nepal and India has so far been a subject of lopsided interpretation in India’s favor.

Occasionally serious concerns and objections for the continuation of the treaty along with the provision of open border are raised by different sections of Nepali society including the intelligentsia but the common Nepali people in general never thought that Indian leadership would do wrong to put Nepal’s vital national interest in jeopardy.

In the recent past, after Nepal’s constituent assembly promulgated a new constitution 2015 AD, India under Narendra Modi pursued a policy of rigmarole by completely ignoring the established traditional link between the two ancient countries.

Nepal currently, is at precarious state due to the devastating earthquake of April 25, 2015 and is doubly hit owing to the unofficial blockade by India.


After Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Nepal last year, new avenues and possibilities were explored on the assumptions that Modi is trying to make a departure from Nehruvian doctrine of security and would adopt a paradigm shift while dealing with Nepal. His speech at the constituent Assembly hall was highly applauded while he gave a mantra of ‘HIT’.

Apparently, Modi displayed his generosity at the time of devastating earthquake of April 25th last year.

All the sections of Nepali population highly appreciated India’s initiative and timely help at the time of natural crisis.

But the close friendship and understanding suffered a considerable jolt at the inaugural speech at a trauma centre, an extended hospital when Prime Minister Modi landed in Kathmandu to attend the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu.

He stood more as a preacher than a friend.

Gradually, after Nepal succeeded in accomplishing the talk of promulgating a new Federal Democratic Republican constitution by concluding a prolonged phase of transition in 2015 AD, Modi government’s policies and actions took a U turn even by defying Indian public opinion that culminated the halting of essential supplies to Nepal causing severe panic to the majority common Nepali people.

This act of Modi government was inconceivable for Nepalis which once again proved India’s ill intention and arm-twisting behavior in the sub-continent.

To make Nepal-India relation a realistic and result oriented as per the aspiration and interest of both the peoples, Nepal’s first ever elected Marxist Prime Minister MM Adhikari in his official visit to India in the early 90s proposed to work out a suitable strategy to further strengthen the bilateral friendship between the two close neighbors.

He argued for a free and frank dialogue covering all dimensions (socio-economic, legal political and security dimensions) of Nepal-India bilateral ties.

Likewise, Madhav Kumar Nepal as Prime Minister of Nepal took initiative in bolstering the bilateral friendship by removing all the bottlenecks and inhibiting factors in a time bound manner once and for all.

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, many Nepali Prime Ministers and other leaders visited India on several occasions.

They were consciously or inadvertently influenced to enter into agreements on a number of issues that were at variance with the Nepal’s national interests.

Most of the watchers/critics of Nepal-India relations would prefer to call it a part of the larger Indian design.

An example of such issues maybe cited as agreement on Tanakpur river, demarcation of boundary line, stationing of Indian security personnel at Nepal’s airport and trade transit related issue to name a few. Former Prime Minister Prachanda was compelled to relinquish his premiership under Indian pressure.

Likewise, CPN, UML chairman and former Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal was kept in a low profile by the Indian establishment for his strong nationalist stand.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s tenure as Prime Minister invited controversy as he was forced to sign a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) without the formal consent of the party supremo and ignoring the suggestions of his colleague the then deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
All these postures and activities adequately suggest big brother attitude of India towards Nepal.

Had there been no grand design, why a friendly country of India’s stature should extend tacit support to arm struggle launched by then insurgent CPN Maoist party against democratically elected government under parliamentary dispensation, is a moot question.

Now, the incumbent Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s upcoming visit starting from February 19 to India is expected to restore normalcy and lost confidence and bring back the bilateral relation to a right track aiming at the opening of new vistas of cooperation to the satisfaction of both the peoples.

At the end, Nepal should activate diplomatic efforts working meticulously by pursuing preventive diplomacy with resolute determination. Vigorous action orientation homework followed by clarity in perception would help enhancing capability and consistency to achieve the set goals of Nepalese Foreign Policy.

Professionalism, career enhancement and leadership development of the officials at the foreign ministry with timely institutional reforms are major tasks that MoFA, Ministry of Foreign Affaiars, Nepal, should undertake.

Institute of Foreign Affairs(IFA) must be revamped with adequate manpower and resources with regular proper training and orientation of MoFA personnel so that the ministry is well equipped with competent manpower capable of grappling with the situation issue wise and area wise.

Regular study and research would provide vision and strength to the cadres at the ministry and proper documentation of the relevant material and findings need to undergo a refinement process with the provision of disseminating them with the experts and stakeholders backed by a feedback mechanism to ensure institutional memory and better outputs.

If honest efforts to the right direction is made, the present complacency syndrome noticed at MoFA would definitely be replaced by a more proactive action by competent team of experts and specialists in the domain of foreign policy and diplomacy.

This calls for a broad based national consensus among the major political parties and actors setting aside fissiparous tendencies.

Let us learn from hindsight and come up for a meaningful start to make Nepal, really ‘Sundar, ShantaraBishal’ within the shortest possible timeframe.

End text.

# Reproduced in the larger interests of the readers both within and without. The article has permission from Professor Pokhrel.
Thanks Prof. Pokhrel: Ed. N. P. Upadhyaya.

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