India’s misadventures in Nepal

By Nasir Ahmed—-

On April 25, 2015, Nepal was hit by a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on Richter scale. The country suffered a colossal loss, estimated to be about $5 billion, with 9000 dead and more than 25000 wounded. Most of the infrastructure got devastated in the capital city of Kathmandu within span of two minutes. Thousands were rendered homeless with dozens of villages flattened across the country. Scores of centuries old historical buildings were destroyed in and outside Kathmandu.
India lost no time in announcing humanitarian help and was one of the first to fly relief planes to the devastated country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Nepal that India will stand by it and will go to any extent to help rebuild the country.
But the analysts soon discovered that Indian gestures were not entirely human. The whole relief exercise was politically motivated and diplomatically engineered to score brownie points over other neighboring countries like China and Pakistan, and also to reiterate its ‘Big Brother’ dominance over the Himalayan countries. It was alleged that Indian air force planes practically took charge of the Kathmandu airport and almost monopolised it for Indian relief operation, trying to shadow the presence of relief missions of other country.
Indian media arrived next in Nepal with its agenda of sensationalising the miseries of Nepal to enhance their Target Rating Points (TRPs). The coverage of the earthquake by the Indian media was criticised and condemned by one and all. Consequently, they were told in clear terms to leave Nepal. The hate sentiment against the Indian media became so popular that it dominated the social networking sites like Twitter on World Press Freedom day on May 3, with the hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia trending worldwide condemning news covered by the Indian media, calling it inhuman, callous and insensitive to people of Nepal.
Such was the impact of the backlash by Nepali that even former MoS for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, had to confess that “Our media continues to embarrass and dismay India.”
Despite being aware of the intentions of Indian government, Nepali acknowledged India’s rescue and relief operations, but outrightly accused Indian news channels of carrying out a public relation exercise on behalf of Government of India for aid given as exclusive and for intentionally hogging space on relief planes where aid material or rescue or medical personnel could have been sent instead.
The Indian misadventure in Nepal dates back to 2006 when much against the popular sentiment of Nepali, India tried to support an unpopular King Gyanendra, whose legitimacy was under question after the palace bloodbath in the year 2000 that led to the death of the then king and his family. People openly asked questions as why India should support a dying monarchy in Nepal when it itself was a republic. Today’s Nepali youth, which comprises of 70 percent of its population rejects the decades old notion that Nepal is obliged to depend on India for all its imports and exports because of geographical compulsions, and  do not accept that as a fundamental thing to live with.
In September 2015, after years of discussions and disagreements Nepal finally adopted a new constitution and proclaimed itself a secular democratic country, and not a theocratic Hindu state that it was until some years ago. However, adaptation of new constitution in Nepal did not go well with India and it openly showed displeasure to the announcement. It tried to impress upon Nepal to look into Madhesi demands in Terai region, who want Nepal to continue as Hindu state, before taking a final call on the announcement of new constitution. India even dispatched Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to Kathmandu to force its agenda. But Nepal refused to budge under pressure and went ahead with their plan of adopting the new constitution declaring Nepal as a democratic secular state.
Soon after the constitution was adopted, trouble heated up in Terai region of Nepal, dominated by Madhesis, as the protests grew among people, such as the Madhesis, Tharus and Janjatis. Over the past month, more than 50 people have died in the growing violence in region, with the Madhesis, Tharus and Janjatis up in arms against the new constitution.
There is a general feeling among Nepal’s intelligentsia that the Modi government encouraged Madhesi protest in the Terai Region for electoral gains in Bihar. To add new dimensions to the Terai trouble, India has tactfully enforced a road blockade against Nepal, which is now facing acute shortage of various commodities particularly petrol and diesel.
India denies imposing a blockade, saying its truck drivers are concerned for their safety after protests inside the Himalayan nation.
But Nepal Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said that demonstrations had been taking place in Nepal for months before the constitution was adopted and trucks had been entering without any major problems. He acknowledged that dozens of protesters had been injured in protests since the constitution was passed but denied there were major security concerns for the trucks to pass the checkpoints.
He further said that “Just after the constitution was put into effect, India stopped the trucks at the border citing security issues. Our stand is this is a vengeance from India as they are not happy with Nepal’s new constitution. This is a trade blockade, just not officially announced.”
However India’s misadventures got a serious setback after Nepal signed deal with China that marked the end of India’s monopoly over petrol, diesel and kerosene supply to Nepal. Prime Minister Oli also signed a deal with Bangladesh for the supply of aviation fuel to the Himalayan country.
Further, On November 4, the Chinese government impressed upon Oli government and agitating parties to resolve the differences over the new constitution without “outside interference” with an obvious reference to India.
As per a report published in Kathmandu post on October 2, the ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by India against Nepal expressing its discontent over the newly adopted constitution in Nepal has sparked a fresh wave of anti- India sentiments in Nepal.
What is it about India’s behavior that Nepalis dislike? The Kathmandu Post analyses the answer: “The Big-brother attitude which many Nepali citizens feel that India holds … and interferes in its internal affairs. There exists a long list of treaties which are considered unfair by the Nepali side. … Nepali people are angry about India’s unwarranted objection over its new constitution which was endorsed by more than 90 percent of people’s representatives elected to the Constituent Assembly—the body mandated to draft the constitution.
Mistreatment at border entry points…. Complaints of encroachment of Nepali territory often create tension between the two countries…. Indian media, especially TV news channels, are considered weapons to spread sensationalism and ultra-nationalism in Nepal. Many people feel, that Indian media is insensitive towards its smaller neighboring countries, and does not respect their concerns.”
It is high time that India comes out of self-glorification syndrome, stops meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and address its own burning issues like religious intolerance and communal hatred.
Courtesy: The Rising Kashmir
Author can be mailed at [email protected]

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