Indian Interest in Nepal

By Ashis Adhikary


A state acts in international arena as per its interest. A realist state prioritizes security interest; a liberal state upholds economic interest while a state embracing constructivism advocates on the ideational interest. Hence, it becomes clear that every state has their interest. Only difference is sometimes interests are laid straight forward while sometimes they are clandestine and are shadowed by other factors.


Taking into consideration the case of Nepal, and particularly throwing light on the interests of our neighboring countries, Chinese interests seem direct and clear-cut. Undoubtedly, Tibetan refugees are the major concern of China. Their maneuvered agitation and cumulative international pressure have caused China to be more serious in relations with Nepal, eventually obliging Nepal to strictly adhere to One China Policy.


Unlike Chinese interest, Indian interest in Nepal however seems varying. Indian interests in Nepal have been portrayed variously by different scholars: as political, social and economic and even regional interests. Activities of different Indian counterparts in different period of time have been interpreted differently which has nevertheless always created confusion on understanding real interests behind actions, events and proceedings.


Some scholars argue on the interest for resources (especially natural), some economic, some political, some argue on hegemony and some on a ‘controlled conflict’. “Any political conflict in Nepal will lead to two political forces agitating in different directions; such directions will encourage a power to seek help from an alien (any state other than India) and such alienation will lead to active participation of alien in Nepalese territory”. India’s fundamental interest lies under this cause “this active participation of an alien can result security challenges in India”. The middle-way Nehruan policy in 1950’s, constitutional monarchy in 1990’s, Maoist-7 party agreement in 2006 and Madhesh aandolan post 2006 has always resulted in creating a win-win situation in Nepalese politics; utilizing coercive diplomacy to negotiations on achieving such win-win political situations.


This fundamental Indian interest due to Nepal’s political power’s alienation has always been seen from Realistic eye of security sensitivity. Politicians who understood this interest of India used it for regime centrism. Actually South has always been a source of regime in Nepali politics. Rana’s British engagement, Monarch’s anti-Indian psychology and democrat’s seeking Indian support depict how power politics of Nepal since long has been influenced by south’s interest gradually working towards stopping political alienation.


New actors in International system


Foreign policy instruments are traditionally understood as the apparatus for the protection and promulgation of national interest, keeping inter-state relations at the centre to guide the international system. However, now the scenario has changed with the gradual growth of non-state actors. Some emerging actors with great influence, not limited to, are terrorist groups, nongovernmental organizations with a vestigial interest, cross border criminal groups like fake currency traffickers, drug traffickers, and human traffickers. Accordingly these non state actors are also playing a prominent role to shape relations between states. “Any political conflict, mostly violent, may result in wanted-unwanted alienation of a political force towards a non state actor (not limited to terrorist) or increased influence of such non-state actors on a profound way leads to security sensitivity of India”.


Nepal’s Constitution making


Albeit the constitution making process in Nepal displayed a distinctive political unity, it was at the cost of brushing aside Madhesi leaders on the veer of agitation. The major political unity is no doubt a fulfillment towards Indian interest. This unity in political forces will stop political alienation which fulfils the major interest but agitation in Terai has been given India a serious headache. This agitation is a primary security consciousness for India, because this agitation is being staged at Indo-Nepal open border and moreover this agitation is getting more violent.


The major cause of Indian interest in this particular belt can be analyzed from two dimensions:

Firstly the violent nature of the agitation and state might enlarge the interests of various intergovernmental organizations working in the area of social justice and human rights. Another important dimension might be the intruders who will drive the agitation as per their interest. Those actors and intruders might be terrorist groups to money traffickers who are deemed as vital national security threats for India.




Indian foreign policy in Nepal is seemingly diverse. Security sensitivity of the border region has always been the Indian interest but the approach towards resolving such sensitivities is more sensitive. Direct intervention will gradually lead to alienation of major united political forces. As these forces carry a major volume of popular people’s vote, this alienation might develop new paradigms in south Asian politics. Secondly direct intervention will also lead to gradual development of anti-Indian psychology in the whole territory of Nepal. Indirect or hidden intervention and covert operations can-not be hidden due to the presence of media, age of globalization and internal conflicts. Such covert operations will diminish the character of India globally. Such direct- indirect interventions will diminish India’s credibility in global arena, a curse in the context of requirement of global support to lobby as a strong global force.


But as a good neighbor it is always Nepal’s responsibility to cover vulnerabilities and not allow our territory to be used against any of our friends. Constant agitation in the Indo-Nepal border is always security threat to India but the approach taken to resolve the threat is also very sensitive towards collective good. Indo-Nepal relations carry a long history in which India has played an important role in creating win-win situations in Nepali politics. India’s initiation to resolve political conflicts in Nepal has always resulted in productive outcomes but an intervention by supporting a particular chunk will lead to a major alienation, anti Indian psychology, increased conflict and a tag of ‘interventionist’: a curse in the way to be a global actor.

(The writer is pursuing Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy, Tribhuwan University)

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