By Hari Prasad Shrestha—
Failed Indian Diplomacy after Nepal Border Blockade Nepal is suffering from the irrepressible ailment of agitation in its Terai region by Indian-origin Madhesis, which seems to be nature of never-ending ethnic conflict supported by southern neighbor in the name of border blockade. More than 45 people killed including Nepalese police, civilians. Death of 1 Indian national and arrest of 2 out of 5 Indian nationals signifies strong penetration of indian nationals in Nepalese Terai unrest.
China gained this opportunity of blockade by filling vacuums created by India. There is a big humanitarian catastrophe in Nepal after great earthquake and this blockade added more pain to the Nepalese as essential items, medicines and petroleum products are in acute shortage. United Nations should also respond to this border blockade as violation of human rights by India through neutral investigation and reporting to international communities. And it’s too late for Nepal not to internationalize this issue. After promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal on 20 Sep 2015, India did feel its role was squeezed during the constitution writing in Nepal.
India reacted unusually against some articles of the Nepalese constitution and forwarded seven point amendments to be incorporated through the Indian Express newspaper but later spokesperson of the Ministry of Indian External Affairs denied saying India had not forwarded any suggestions for amendments to the Nepalese Constitution.
India is dealing with new democratic Nepal not with previous monarchy one. In the changed context in Nepal, mindset of Indian bureaucrats and ruling authorities needed to be changed in dealing with Nepal. Many politician, scholar and general public in India are also not happy with the behavior and border blockade by India. Majority of Nepalese general public are against sudden aggressive Indian behavior and anti-India feeling is in rising scale and in climax in Nepal. Some ruling class in India – according to their game plan never wanted Nepal to be developed, peaceful and stable country; always wanted to be positioned Nepal inside its security umbrella net and consistently tried to make it more weak and impoverished after 1951.
The colonial Indian mind-set has been seen not only with Nepal but also with all other neighbors of India and it was not unexpected behavior of India. Nepalese politicians are also responsible for this Indian game plan. During monarchy and after democracy in 1990, Nepalese leaderships always worshiped Indian leaderships as their fortune-maker. Indian bureaucrats and intelligence were the key players in coordinating, fulfilling and controlling the major wishes of the Nepalese leaderships.
India was always doing micro-management in state affairs of Nepal. But this time, after promulgation of constitution, India was not satisfied only with the micro-management but had a wish to take more control on Nepal Terai by utilizing some Madhesi leaders of Indian origin by incorporating all the twenty two districts bordering India in one state in the Constitution of Nepal. This was the one of the prime causes of Indian dissatisfaction. Moreover, easy provisions to be included in acquiring Nepalese citizenship without delay by Indian men who marry the Nepalese women were another issue raised by India through Madhesi leaders.
India wants to fill Nepal with Indian immigrants through forcing Nepal to amend its citizenship provisions, which would not only destabilize Nepal but also it may affect negatively also to Chinese security. China might be also in defensive position through Nepal due to excess Indian immigrants filling in Nepal, which may not be very advantageous to India. Now it’s right time to negotiate with India to manage and close the open borders between India and Nepal. China might fast track construction of high speed railways, multi-lane highways, petroleum pipeline, dry ports in Nepal to support the humanitarian catastrophe and fear created by India blockade during intervals of every decades.
Indian authorities are, knowingly or unknowingly and without reading, opposing the Nepalese constitution. They are creating confusion among people by misleading the real contents of Nepalese constitution through Indian media. It is true; there is dissatisfaction among Terai people of Nepal regarding their slow economic development compared to hill areas. India in Terai and China in hills of Nepal are more active in development activities.
Development and infrastructure projects in hills are more successful compared to the projects in Terai. Chinese executed projects are better in execution than India executed projects in Nepal. The India executed projects – for example Terai Hulaki Highway, Interstate Container Depot in major border customs of Terai, railways expansion in Terai are lingering since many years and taking longer period than expected, these projects are considered to be back bone for Terai’s development.
Moreover, Terai of Nepal is full of Zamindars (landlords), who are always ruling Terai, acquiring high positions in politics and bureaucracy for their personal benefit but always wanted to keep Tear undeveloped and poor. This had also caused dissatisfaction in Terai people due to slow development of Terai. This issue has never been raised by Terai people.Terai people can’t speak against them because the Terai Zamindars have strong southern backings. Government investment both in Terai and Hill areas of Nepal are equally good. There is tug-of-war between two countries’ politician, diplomat, medias and general public. There is consensus among Nepalese that this unofficial border blockade is designed and directed by high Indian authorities and the Madhesi leaders are only small players of the game-plan.
In India, there is mixed reactions – the ruling authorities are blaming to Nepal for not accommodating demands of Madhesis in new constitution and agitation in Terai is the cause of border blockade by the Nepalese, while many neutral and opposition leaders are completely against Indian blockade and they say as big Indian diplomatic failure in Nepal. India has strong belief and successful in creating confusion that all the Madhesi inhabitants of Nepal plain lands are Indian-origin people.
Indian media and some politician are highlighting extensively in support of this belief to get more supports from the Madhesis in Nepal. But majority of Nepalese have different views in this issue. There are two types of Madhesis in Nepal, first type living in Terai since many centuries as son-of-land and next type who migrated to Nepal from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh of India after treaty of 1951 between India and Nepal. The first type of original madhesis have less relatives and relations with India compared to the second types of Indian immigrants and the first type do not support and accept the Indian belief to be all Madhesi of indian origin.
India in recent days, is trying to confuse not only the son-of-land Madhesis to be Indian-origin but to other major inhabitants including Tharus, Muslims and other minorities whose appearances are somehow similar to border Indians. These original Madhesi people are fearful with the Indian immigrants because they live together and are relationships with each others. Even the Pahade (hill) tribes who live in Terai are also fearful with the Indian immigrants in Nepal due to their strong connection with India’s ruling authorities. Nepal is completely familiar with the Indian confusing games as they constructed duplicate Lumbini and Kapilvastu near border of Nepal and are publicizing extensively- Buddha was born in India.
Now Nepal is trying hard to convince world community that Buddha was born in Nepal. The whole world knows that Indian border with Pakistan and China has been secured by 70000 strong Nepalese Gorkha soldiers in front line. Their families are severely suffering in Nepal by Indian blockade. India always blames to Nepal there is security threat of Pakistani infiltration from Nepal but never insist to manage or close the border?
Original Madhesis and hill inhabitants are not against manage or close the border of Nepal with India; only recently arrived immigrants from India are against it. India is not interested to close the border with Nepal to surpass the number of Indian origin population than original Nepalese population to control politically Nepal by Indian immigrants Madhesis. Many Indian media and authority are tirelessly provoking that due to insecurity in border area of Nepal and agitation of Madhesis in Nepal border side, the truck drivers are fearful to carry cargo and fuel trucks to Nepal.
While, the agitating Madhesis supported by Indians are obstructing the Indian side of border not the Nepalese and they are also throwing stones from Indian Territory to Nepalese security personnel. Only some international media, other than Indian, are transmitting this reality up to some extent. After continued border blockade, Nepal is in complete mood to break the Indian monopoly by importing considerable amount of fuel from China. Memorandum of Understanding to import petroleum product from China to Nepal has been signed and trade agreement would be signed in near future to fulfill its one third of petroleum requirements.
Chinese petrol already started to flow in Nepal.This time India seems to be in defensive position of wait and see regarding fuel deal of Nepal with China. Procuring long term fuel from China is considered to be historical achievement of Nepal to break Indian monopoly. Nepal is paying billions of dollars for everything which is coming to Nepal from India, nothing is free. As Indian media states as if it appears that everything Nepal is getting is India’s mercy.
This blockade is both challenges and opportunities for Nepal to be free from India’s unofficial monopoly in all sphere of life, which she is suffering from many decades. India’s opposition in UNHCR in Geneva, regarding Nepal issues of human rights is complete failure of Indian diplomacy. Nepal seemed to be successful in Geneva in transmitting ill Indian blockade intention. All other countries except India have accepted the Nepalese constitution, which is grand success for Nepal. Freedom from undeclared colonization for Nepal is not easy task.
(Courtesy: This article was published as a comment in the Public Policy on Nov 11, 2015 )