Friday, 12 April, 2024

Nepali Unity Over National Sovereignty

Namrata Sharma


The national unity shown in Nepal’s parliament to amend the constitution and adopt the revised map of Nepal is a unique, bold and commendable step. The current government needs three cheers for this step. The strong voice of the Nepali people regarding our rights over territories in Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura once more demonstrates the seriousness the Nepali people attach to their sovereignty and independence.

Wake-up call
The very fact that a small landlocked country Nepal, with a population of about 29 million people, dared to challenge a much larger country India with which it has a so-called ‘special relation’ should in itself be a wake-up call for India to review its foreign policy towards its smaller neighbour. People of both the countries understand very well the trade dependency that Nepal has with India due to its landlocked situation. This should not be a reason for Nepal to always surrender to Indian wishes. The recent commitment by the Nepali government and the people from Himal, Pahad and Terai demonstrates that sovereignty for us means everything. Both the Nepali government and the people are well aware of the hardships Nepali people could face because of India’s aggressive policies towards its neighbour with which it claims to have a “special relation”, or even a ‘roti-beti’ relation. India has been imposing the big brother approach with a patriarchal and feudalistic mindset.
India had imposed a trade embargo in 2015 just as Nepal was struggling in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. I vividly remember the impact the embargo had on the daily lives of the Nepalis. In the cold months of Kathmandu, when the temperature had dropped below zero degrees, I remember having to wake up at 4 am and cook food for the entire day and keep it wrapped up in warm woolen clothes to retain the heat as long as possible. There was no gas and Nepal was facing more than 16 hours of load-shedding. When there was electricity, the people used to cook food on induction stoves to last throughout the day.
I also remember the difficulties faced by my septuagenarian parents due to the cold as the gas or electrical heaters could not be used when there was no electricity or cooking gas. Many people, including my parents, had to stay in rented places as their houses had been damaged. It was a big deal to cope with the daily challenges, especially for children and the elderlies, of providing oneself with food and basic necessities. Now again, when Nepal is struggling to put in an effective strategy to cope with COVID-19, the so called “Big Brother” down south has decided not to come for talks and sort out the pending land issues. However, they have found time for talks with China and Australia?
During the COVID-19 period, the Nepali people have once been reminded of the impact of the unofficial trade embargo imposed by India after the devastating 2015 earthquake. This is why this time round, the people rallied around the government to take up a united stand against India’s recent actions. Kudos to the people of my country and kudos to the government for amending the constitution and adopting the new national emblem. It is ironical that both India and the USA claim to be one of the oldest and biggest democracies on earth, but their policies towards their neighbours and the minority communities in their countries are discriminatory and incoherent. This clearly shows that these countries are no longer seen as exemplary upholders of human rights!
Who gave India the right to impose a trade embargo against Nepal? And who has given them the right to brush aside talks with Nepal but hold similar talks with Australia and China? Are lives and sovereignty of Nepali people less important than those living in these big and more affluent countries? PM Modi, where has your so-called brotherly approach and ‘special relation’ with Nepal gone? This attitude towards a neighbouring country reflects your failure in international relations. Also, the people of India should prove themselves worthy of being known as citizens of one of the oldest and largest democracies by respecting the rights of the people of countries who have to be dependent on them because of geography and, to talk of Nepal, because of the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty. The Indian media make a hue and cry whenever Nepal raises any national issues with India and accuses Nepal of being unfairly instigated by China! How can any “special relation” be threatened by a third party?

Equal partnership
It is now high time for India to come out as a uniting country in South Asia rather than portray itself as an intimidating country. In today’s world, the time has come for all to work towards peace and sustainable development for people all over the world. At a time when India should be taking a lead in ‘equal partnership’ with all its South Asian countries, it has once more created an unpleasant situation where a country which cannot match it in size or resources has to challenge it. The youth of Nepal has now risen up with the campaign “Enough is Enough”. This has nothing to do with China backing Nepal as the Indian government is claiming. This is about a very weak foreign policy of India and her attitude of taking Nepal for granted. It is therefore imperative that India and Nepal together create an atmosphere conducive for talks to sort out their most difficult border and other issues.

(Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate. Twitter handle: NamrataSharmaP)