Friday, 12 April, 2024

Nepal-India Relations At Crossroads

Raj Kumar KC


The age-old relationships between Nepal and India have virtually gone sour following the latter’s announcement of formal inauguration of the 75.54-kilometre Kailash Manasarovar road link via Lipulek near the border with China. The inauguration ceremony through video conference had taken place amid the lockdown. Had the Nepali media and civil society remained indifferent to this development, the government and the opposition party leaders may not have taken it seriously. Would India have made formal announcement of inauguration if Nepali leaders have taken the issue seriously? Why did India deliberately maintain silence about Nepal’s sovereignty when the former began the construction of the 75.54-km roads through Lipulek? Had India been faithful, it would have informed Nepal about the construction works along the borders.

Oli’s strong commitment
Though it took some time to delve into the issue, Nepal left no stone unturned to draw India’s attention in a diplomatic way. The strong commitment of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to return Lipulek area from India is itself an epitome of patriotism. Perhaps, this is the first time in the parliamentary history of Nepal that all parties in the House stood united to reclaim the infringed land.
The unique relationships between Nepal and India cannot simply be confined within a certain diplomatic framework. The age-old amicable tie between the people living along the 1751-km open border is the manifestation of special relations that no other could have. No matter how people in both nations interpret the current situation, it is not possible for both nations to turn cold soldiers. Relations with neighbours have their impact on development. For instance, Switzerland, a landlocked nation bordering withy Germany, France, Italy and Austria has never encountered any problem. Hence, India as an economic powerhouse in the world should win the confidence of its neighbors to propel economic growth and development.
All countries across the world irrespective of their size, economic strength and population are equal. Sovereignty of a country whether it is big or small is equal. Nepal is quite familiar with India’s economic blockades in 1989 and 2015. It should be noted that those economic blockades had occurred at a time when Nepal was passing through difficult times. The six-month long blockade in the aftermath of 2015 earthquake is still fresh in Nepali minds. The 1989 blockade had stirred a big political upheaval in Nepal. After all, why does India often choose to be harsh towards Nepal despite having lots of coherence and common issues including fighting terrorism, poverty eradication, cross-border smuggling and human trafficking?
There could be a number of reasons why India is not behaving properly with Nepal. This might be because India is still under the delirium of British Raj. Many people in Nepal still believe that Nepali leaders including the Ranas and Shahs who ruled Nepal for almost 240 years were responsible for suppressing national interests. Unfortunately, this trend continued even after the restoration of democracy in 1990. Leaders of Nepali Congress, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and many others who had taken refuge during their fight against the Rana and Shah rulers are lenient towards India. Were Nepali leaders bold enough, they would not have given assent to the Mahakali Treaty. Definitely Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura within western borders belong to Nepal. Nepal has sufficient proofs. According to historians, King Mahendra had agreed with India to retain the security posts at Kalapani. It is said that the king was well aware of the Indian security posts in Kalapani.
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, a Nepali geographer specialising on the border issues of Nepal, has referred to a map he found at the London Library. Besides, there are dozens of examples that Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura belong to Nepal. Nepal is serious about resolving the issue through dialogue from the very beginning. Nepal has formally released the updated map including Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulek which the President had authenticated. Both the Houses of the Federal Parliament have endorsed the Constitution Amendment Bill to formalise the updated map of the country in the Coat of Arms.

Equal sovereignty
India can no longer delay in responding to its small neighbour’s repeated requests for dialogue. Leaders of both nations should be aware of ‘those elements’ that are looking for the situation to fish in murky waters. Nepal is smaller than India but its sovereignty is equal. Cultural, religious and spiritual relationships have galvanised both nations. Acerbic comments from Indian leaders like Yogi Adityanath and baseless news reports from Indian media about Nepal help only to strain the ties. If Indian leaders like Yogi Adityanath were a bit sensitive about the land of Pashupatinath, they would not have made such disparaging remarks. It shows his total arrogance and stupidity.
It is a fact that Nepal and India cannot afford to remain apart. They are tied with unbreakable bond. India has been providing laudable support for Nepal’s economic development. Nepal has supported India in international arena. Besides, leaders of both nations are well aware of the spirit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Bearing all these things in mind, people from different walks of life in both nations have started raising serious concern. Let’s hope India will respond to Nepal’s call and reciprocate for resolving outstanding issues.

(KC is former Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal)